The objectives of the study were to describe the introduction of testing blood donations for antibodies to human T-cell lymphotropic virus (anti-HTLV) and to determine the risk of HTLV potentially infectious donations entering the UK blood supply. The rationale for testing was based on (i) evidence of transmission through transfusion in the UK, (ii) the serious nature of HTLV I-associated morbidity and (iii) evidence of infection in UK blood donors. From mid-2002, all blood donations made at UK blood centres were tested in pooled samples using Abbott-Murex HTLV I/II GE 80/81 enzyme immunoassay (EIA). Surveillance data were used to calculate the incidence and prevalence of anti-HTLV and derive estimates of risk. Between August 2002 and December 2006, 106 donations were confirmed positive for anti-HTLV (95 anti-HTLV I and 11 anti-HTLV II). Prevalence was 10-fold higher among donations from new donors than repeat (4·0 and 0·42 per 100 000 donations), and only one repeat donor had evidence of seroconversion. The risk of an HTLV I potentially infectious donation entering the UK blood supply was estimated at 0·11 per million donations (95% confidence interval 0·06 to 0·18). The current very low observed incidence and prevalence among blood donors reflect the very low estimated risk of an HTLV I-positive donation entering the UK blood supply. A change in either the epidemiology of HTLV in UK blood donors or the length of the window period of the test should prompt further review of the risk and a reassessment of anti-HTLV testing in the UK.
- Blood donors
- Human T-cell lymphotropic virus
- Transfusion-transmitted infection