Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hepatitis B Blood Screening: Nucleic Acid Testing

Hepatitis B is an important blood-borne virus that has posed a major public health risk because of significant spread through donated blood. Infection with Hepatitis B has serious consequences, including liver failure. Today, all banked blood in the United States is tested for Hepatitis B and other particularly devastating diseases in order to prevent infection in the recipient. However current tests only look for the hepatitis B surface antigen and antibodies against hepatitis B core antigen. This means that detection of the virus is only possible after the donor has seroconverted, leaving a hole for potentially infected blood to enter the system.

The new method in this paper uses nucleic acid testing rather than antibody testing to directly identify the pathogen. Using their methods, researchers were able to identify some donors who tested positive but were negative using the traditional methods. The tests successfully detected HBV, HCV, and HIV in the seronegative blood samples. This more sensitive test may translate in greater reduction in transmission of HBV, HCV and HIV in the future.


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