Epidemiology of HBV infection in Asian blood donors: emphasis on occult HBV infection and the role of NAT

J Clin Virol. 2006 May:36 Suppl 1:S33-44. doi: 10.1016/s1386-6532(06)80007-7.


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is endemic in many Asian countries. Among many transmission routes, transfusion is the one that should be prevented. The first major success in enhancing transfusion safety came with the implementation of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) in the early 1970s. However, the studies quoted in this review demonstrate that transmission by blood components negative for HBsAg can still occur in the acute phase of infection during the seronegative window period, or during chronic stages of infection (i.c. "occult" HBV infection, OHB). OHB is defined as the presence of HBV DNA in blood or liver tissues in patients negative for HBsAg, with or without any HBV antibodies. Because of limitations in current blood screening practices, OHB is an overlooked source of HBV transmission. For policy development on screening for HBV infection in blood donors, it would be useful to assess the relative contribution of the above two sources of transfusion-transmitted HBV infection from HBsAg-negative donations. New screening policy should be evaluated on the basis of available data or newly designed studies. While anti-HBc screening can climinate residual risk of occult HBV transmission by transfusion in low-endemic areas, it would not be practical in most parts of the world where the prevalence of anti-HBc is >10% as too many otherwise healthy donors will be ineligible. On the contrary, studies mentioned in this paper indicate that nucleic acid amplification test (NAT) or new HBsAg tests of enhanced sensitivity would be effective in the screening of blood donors for OHB in highly endemic countries. However, the cost-effectiveness of blood screening tests is a major concern in Asia. We therefore have systemically reviewed the literature on prevalence and infectivity of OHB in Asian countries and the possible role of NAT for identifying blood donors in the pre-HBsAg window phase or in later stages of OHB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Blood Donors*
  • DNA, Viral / blood*
  • Forecasting
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics
  • Hepatitis B virus / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Viral Load
  • Viremia / blood*


  • DNA, Viral