Risk of hepatitis?E virus infections among blood donors in a regional blood transfusion centre in western India

AbstractBackground

Hepatitis-E virus (HEV) is an emerging infectious threat to blood safety. The enormity of the transmission of HEV and its clinical consequence are issues currently under debate. This study aimed to evaluate the prevalence of HEV-RNA in blood donors in western India.

Materials and Methods

We screened 13?050 blood donors for HEV using HEV-RNA screening of 10 mini-pools using RealStar HEV RT-PCR Kit (95% limit of detection (LOD): 4.7 IU/ml). Furthermore, all HEV-RNA-positive donors were investigated for the presence of IgM/IgG antibody along with liver function tests.

Results

Of the 13?050 blood donations, 7 (0.53%) were found to be HEV-RNA positive, and the prevalence of HEV nucleic acid testing yield cases among blood donors was 1 in 1864. All seven HEV-RNA-positive samples were tested with anti-HEV IgM and anti-HEV IgG antibodies; this resulted in two (28.5%) positive anti-HEV IgM and two (28.5%) positive anti-HEV IgG antibodies. Hepatic activity was measured, with two of seven HEV-RNA-positive donors demonstrating abnormal serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT) andserum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT). Two HEV-RNA-positive blood donors who had abnormal SGOT and SGPT were found to have a high HEV viral load. Furthermore, we were able to follow up two HEV-RNA donors, and both were HEV-RNA positive and had anti-HEV IgM and anti-HEV IgG antibodies; moreover, their liver function tests were also abnormal. One of the HEV-RNA donors with high viral load did show hepatitis-E-like virus on electron microscopy.

Conclusion

Our studies indicate that there is a significant risk of blood-borne transmission of HEV. This finding may help to provide a direction towards the safety of blood transfusions in clinical settings in countries like India, which fall under the endemic category for HEV infection.