Testing for HTLV 1 and HTLV 2 among blood donors in Western Saudi Arabia: prevalence and cost considerations

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Screening all blood donors for human T-cell lymphotropic viruses 1 and 2 (HTLV 1 and HTLV 2) is mandatory in Saudi Arabia. The aim of this study is to evaluate the results and costs associated with the current testing policy for HTLV 1 and HTLV 2 in blood donors at King Abdulaziz University Hospital (KAUH), Jeddah.

Study designs and methods

Donor-testing results from Blood Transfusion Services at KAUH were reviewed over a 10-year period, from January 2006 through December 2015. All donors were screened using chemiluminescent microparticle immunoassay. Reactive samples were then tested by Western blot for confirmation. Costs associated with testing were calculated.


Data of 107 419 donations in the study period were reviewed. Saudi nationals constituted 51 168 donors (47·6%). Of 107 419 blood donors tested for HTLV 1 and HTLV 2 antibody, and 95 (0·088%) donors were reactive to screening tests. None of the samples found to be reactive to screening tests was positive by Western blot. The average cost of testing was US$ 171 870 per year.


No donors were confirmed to have HTLV 1 and HTLV 2 in this cohort exceeding 100 000 donors. We propose changes to the policy mandating universal testing by replacing it with universal leukodepletion coupled with targeted screening to donors coming from endemic area or donors at risk. Such changes are expected to lead to a reduction of testing cost without affecting safety.

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