Hepatitis C-related chronic liver disease among asymptomatic blood donors in the North West of England

Raymond Mcmahon, John P. McLindon, W. Keith Paver, Christopher Babbs, Andrew D. Yates, Raymond F T McMahon, Elizabeth M. Love, John Craske, Jackie Christopher, Thomas W. Warnes

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    In the first 19 months of screening, the North Western Regional Transfusion Centre (RTC) tested 224 700 consecutive blood donors for antibody to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) by second generation enzyme immunoassay (EIA). Of these, 366 repeatedly reactive samples were referred for confirmatory testing at Manchester Public Health Laboratory (PHL). There, the initial EIA was repeated, together with two further EIAs. All the referred samples were subjected to a confirmatory line immunoblot (RIBA-II). Reverse transcription followed by the polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), in order to detect viral RNA, was performed on selected samples. Among the donors, 61 accepted offers for medical review and were assessed for risk factors, clinical findings and results of standard liver function tests. Of these donors, 53 proceeded to liver biopsy. The overall prevalence of confirmed positive donors was 0.04%. Main risk factors identified included intravenous drug abuse in 31 (51%) donors and prior blood transfusion in 12 (20%) but a risk factor was not apparent in 11 (18%). Viraemia, detected by RT-PCR, could be predicted with a high degree of accuracy by means of the readily available and simpler screening and confirmatory tests (EIA and RIBA-II). Established chronic hepatitis was demonstrated in 90% of the liver biopsies. A trend towards worsening histological findings accompanied increasing concentrations of serum transaminase. Even so, many donors with normal transaminase values had abnormal biopsies including those showing chronic active hepatitis (CAH). These findings indicate that a substantial proportion of previously unrecognised asymptomatic persons with established chronic liver disease exists among North Western blood donors. Confirmed positive serological tests are usually associated with viraemia and abnormal histological findings. We conclude that all such confirmed positive persons should be offered full medical assessment, including liver biopsy, so as to determine whether they warrant antiviral therapy. © 1995 The British Society for the Study of Infection.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)253-259
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal Of Infection
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - May 1995


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