Issue: March 2012
February 14, 2012
1 min read

Viral genetic similarities observed between blood donors, high-risk populations

Delwart E. J Infect Dis. 2012;doi:10.1093/infdis/jir862.

Issue: March 2012
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New findings indicated that viral genetic variant distribution in blood donors was similar to that seen in high-risk US populations. Therefore, bloodborne viruses detected through large-scale routine screening of blood donors may complement molecular surveillance studies of highly exposed populations, according to researchers.

Eric Delwart, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues set out to determine recent changes in prevalence of subtypes/genotypes and drug/immune-escape variants by comparing recently acquired incident infections with longer-term seropositive prevalent infections among blood donors.

Data were pooled from centers accounting for approximately 70% of the US blood supply between 2006 and 2009.

Of approximately 34 million US blood donations, 321 HIV strains were found; 50% were incident and 2.5% were non-B HIV subtypes.

Among 278 hepatitis C virus strains, 31% were incident, and the researchers identified higher frequencies of 3a in incident cases vs. higher frequencies of 1b in prevalent cases (P= .04).

Of 193 hepatitis B virus strains, 26% were incident, of which 20 subgenotypes were identified and yielded higher frequencies of A2 in incident cases and higher frequencies of A1, B2 and B4 in prevalent cases (P= .007). The researchers observed 6% of incident vs. 26% of prevalent HBV contained antibody neutralization escape mutations (P= .01).

“As predominant viral strains change over time, sequence data generated by such blood donor molecular surveillance studies may be of use to adjust primers used in nucleic acid detection methods, as well as the specificities of antibodies and antigens used in serologic assays in order to maintain the high sensitivity of blood donation screening assays,” the researchers wrote.

Disclosure: This research was supported by National Institutes of Health, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (contracts N01-HB-47168, -47169, -47170, -47171, -47172, -47174, -47175, and -57181).

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