Research Article

Screening of Danish blood donors for hepatitis B surface antigen using a third generation technique.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 291 doi: (Published 21 September 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:780
  1. P Wantzin,
  2. J O Nielsen,
  3. N Tygstrup,
  4. H Soerensen,
  5. E Dybkjaer


    The profit to be gained by testing Danish blood donors for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) with a third generation technique instead of the currently used immunoelectrophoresis was investigated by additional screening of 48 750 blood units by radioimmunoassay three weeks after donation. Twenty nine units were positive for HBsAg on radioimmunoassay (0.059%). Only six of these were found by immunoelectrophoresis (0.012%). Most of the 23 donors positive on radioimmunoassay and negative on immunoelectrophoresis were healthy carriers of HBsAg (20) or had asymptomatic chronic liver disease (two). One donor had acute hepatitis B. Fifteen of the 23 blood units were transfused. The 15 recipients were monitored biochemically and serologically for up to nine months. One recipient developed fulminant hepatitis B, three developed acute hepatitis B, and one became a healthy carrier of HBsAg. All these patients had received blood from healthy carriers of HBsAg. Two recipients were immunised against HBsAg, and in one patient no seroconversion was observed. The remaining recipients died soon after transfusion or were protected by antibodies to HBsAg that had been present before the transfusion. Testing of Danish blood donors using a third generation technique identified a substantial number of donors positive for HBsAg overlooked by immunoelectrophoresis. Most of these donors were healthy carriers of HBsAg. Blood taken from such carriers is highly infectious when transfused, probably because of the large amount of material transmitted.