Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is one of the most frequent infections identified in blood donors in England and represents an ongoing blood safety risk. We have analyzed markers of HBV infections in blood donors in England between 2009 and 2018 and used these to estimate the likelihood of non-detection of occult HBV infection (OBI).
We collected epidemiological, virological, and genotyping information on HBV cases identified in England, 2009-2018. The estimated risk of non-detection and likely transmission of OBI were compared to lookback and transfusion-transmitted infections surveillance data.
Six-hundered and fifty-five HBV-infected blood donors were identified in England during the 10-year period; 598 chronic, 32 acute, and 25 occult HBV infections. However, most donors with chronic and occult infections were born in Eastern Europe, Africa, or Asia (451/544, 83% and 14/24, 58%); acute infections were largely seen in UK-born donors (19/28, 68%). Genotyping of 266 HBV-positive samples revealed five genotypes (A-E), reflecting ethnicity and country of birth. Most OBIs were identified in repeat donors (19/25); lookback data identified a transmission rate of 8.3%. It is estimated that at least 13 potentially infectious donations from donors with OBI remain undetected annually, equating to an overall residual transmission risk of 3.1 per million donations using our current screening strategy of HBsAg screening with HBV nucleic acid testing (NAT) in pools of 24.
OBI accounted for the majority of the HBV residual risk in England. Further cost-benefit analysis is required to estimate if our current HBV screening strategy should be changed.

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