Sensitive Detection Assays for Influenza RNA Do Not Reveal Viremia in US Blood Donors

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Abstract

(See the article by Delwart et al, on pages 875–85, and see the editorial commentary by Katz, on pages 867–9.)

Background. There have been anecdotal reports of influenza viremia since the 1960s. We present an assessment of the prevalence of seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza viremia (via RNA testing) in blood donor populations using multiple sensitive detection assays.

Methods. Several influenza RNA amplification assays, including transcription-mediated amplification (TMA) and 2 reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays, were evaluated and used to test donor samples. Retrospective samples from 478 subjects drawn at sites with high influenza activity were tested. Prospective samples were collected from 1004 blood donors who called their donation center within 3 days of donation complaining of influenza-like illness (ILI). The plasma collected on the day of donation for these subjects was tested.

Results. Of the repository samples, 2 of 478 plasma samples were initially reactive but not repeat reactive by influenza TMA. Of blood donors reporting ILI symptoms postdonation, 1 of 1004 samples was TMA initially reactive but not repeat reactive; all samples were nonreactive by RT-PCR testing.

Conclusions. Targeting blood donor populations most likely to have influenza infection, we failed to detect influenza RNA in 1482 donor samples, with most tested by 3 different RNA assays. Seasonal influenza does not appear to pose a significant contamination threat to the blood supply.

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