Hepatitis B virus prevalence in first?time blood donors in Flanders, Belgium: Impact of universal vaccination and migration


Transfusion-transmissible infections such as hepatitis B virus (HBV) remain a major concern for the safety of blood transfusion. This cross-sectional study aimed to assess the trend of HBV prevalence and associated risk factors among a first-time donor population in a low endemic country.

Study Design and Methods

Between 2010 and 2018, blood samples were collected from first-time donors presented at donor collection sites of Belgian Red Cross-Flanders. They were tested for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), hepatitis B core antibodies (anti-HBc), and HBV DNA, HIV and hepatitis virus C (HCV) antibodies and RNA, and syphilis antibodies.


A total of 211,331 first-time blood donors (43.7% males, median age 25?years) were analyzed. HBsAg prevalence decreased from 0.06% in 2010 to 0.05% in 2018 (p =?.004) and this declining trend was accompanied by an increased number of donors in the HBV vaccinated birth cohort (p <?.001). HBsAg prevalence was 0.33% in foreign-born donors and 0.02% in Belgian natives (p <?.001). Multivariate risk profiling showed that anti-HBc positivity was significantly associated with mainly foreign-born donors (odds ratio [OR] = 9.24) but also with older age (OR = 1.06), male gender (OR = 1.32), year of blood donation (OR = 0.94), and co-infections with HCV (OR = 4.31) or syphilis (OR = 4.91).


The decreasing trend in HBV prevalence could mainly be explained by the introduction of the universal HBV vaccination. Being born in endemic areas was the most important predictor for HBV infection while the co-infections with syphilis suggest unreported sexual risk contacts.