Investigational screening for Babesia microti in a large repository of blood donor samples from nonendemic and endemic areas of the United States

Transfusion. 2014 Sep;54(9):2226-36. doi: 10.1111/trf.12693. Epub 2014 May 28.


Background: Babesia microti, a transfusion-transmissible intraerythrocytic parasite, is increasing in frequency in the United States with no available FDA-licensed donor screening assay. We utilized investigational arrayed fluorescence immunoassay (AFIA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to detect B. microti antibodies and DNA in blood donors.

Study design and methods: AFIA and real-time PCR were performed on frozen paired EDTA plasma (AFIA) and EDTA whole blood (PCR) samples collected from May to September 2010 to 2011 in nonendemic (Arizona [AZ] and Oklahoma [OK]), moderately endemic (Minnesota [MN] and Wisconsin [WI]), and highly endemic (Connecticut [CT] and Massachusetts [MA]) areas of the United States. AFIA utilized B. microti piroplasm as an antigen substrate; PCR primers and probes targeted the B. microti 18S ribosomal RNA gene. Data from AZ and OK were used to calculate specificity. All AFIA- or PCR-positive or -inconclusive donors were deferred, notified, and invited to participate in a follow-up study involving repeat testing and a demographic and risk-factor questionnaire. Recipient tracing was performed for any cellular component transfused at index, at subsequent donation, or within the prior 12 months.

Results: Testing of 13,269 paired samples included 4022 from AZ and OK, 4167 from MN and WI, and 5080 from CT and MA. B. microti antibody and/or DNA prevalences were 0.025% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.00%-0.14%), 0.12% (95% CI, 0.04%-0.28%), and 0.75% (95% CI, 0.53%-1.03%) in the nonendemic, mid-endemic, and high-endemic regions, respectively. Specificities were 99.95% (95% CI, 99.82%-99.99%) at a 1-in-64 AFIA cutoff and 99.98% (95% CI, 99.86%-100.00%) at a 1-in-128 cutoff.

Conclusions: B. microti prevalence followed expected geographical patterns. Screening was feasible with a performance comparable or superior to other infectious disease blood donor screening assays.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Protozoan / blood
  • Babesia microti / genetics
  • Babesia microti / immunology
  • Babesia microti / pathogenicity*
  • Blood Donors / statistics & numerical data*
  • DNA, Protozoan / blood
  • Humans
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • United States


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • DNA, Protozoan