Transfusion-transmitted hepatitis B virus infection in the UK: a small and moving target

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Background and Objectives

Transfusion-transmitted hepatitis B virus (TT-HBV) infections, when analysed in detail provide information about the nature and relative frequency of the sources of infectious donations. These cases are therefore used to inform blood safety strategies. This study updates previous reviews of the causes of TT-HBV in order to determine whether a change may have occurred in recent years.

Materials and Methods

Cases of TT-HBV reported during 1998–2001 were reviewed and the nature of the infectious donations described. These cases were compared to a previously published case series reported during 1991–97.


Six cases of TT-HBV have been reported in the UK between 1998 and 2001. All were the result of infectious donations collected from donors with acute HBV infection. This is in contrast to the series reported during 1991–97 when only three of 14 similar cases were caused by acute infections in donors, with the majority of incidents being the result of chronic infection in donors.


There appears to have been a change in the relative importance of acute and chronic HBV infection in blood donors in causing TT-HBV infections. Improvements in the sensitivity of HBsAg assays and/or a decrease in the prevalence of chronic HBV infection in blood donors could explain this observation. This change may have implications for strategies to reduce the risk of TT-HBV infection.

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