Nosocomial transmission of hepatitis C virus in a liver transplant center in Hong Kong: implication of reusable blood collection tube holder as the vehicle for transmission

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2018 Oct;39(10):1170-1177. doi: 10.1017/ice.2018.175. Epub 2018 Aug 29.


Background: A liver transplant recipient developed hospital-acquired symptomatic hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 6a infection 14 months post transplant.

Objective: Standard outbreak investigation.

Methods: Patient chart review, interviews of patients and staff, observational study of patient care practices, environmental surveillance, blood collection simulation experiments, and phylogenetic study of HCV strains using partial envelope gene sequences (E1-E2) of HCV genotype 6a strains from the suspected source patient, the environment, and the index patient were performed.

Results: Investigations and data review revealed no further cases of HCV genotype 6a infection in the transplant unit. However, a suspected source with a high HCV load was identified. HCV genotype 6a was found in a contaminated reusable blood-collection tube holder with barely visible blood and was identified as the only shared item posing risk of transmission to the index case patient. Also, 14 episodes of sequential blood collection from the source patient and the index case patient were noted on the computerized time log of the laboratory barcoding system during their 13 days of cohospitalization in the liver transplant ward. Disinfection of the tube holders was not performed after use between patients. Blood collection simulation experiments showed that HCV and technetium isotope contaminating the tip of the sleeve capping the sleeved-needle can reflux back from the vacuum-specimen tube side to the patient side.

Conclusions: A reusable blood-collection tube holder without disinfection between patients can cause a nosocomial HCV infection. Single-use disposable tube holders should be used according to the recommendations by Occupational Safety and Health Administration and World Health Organization.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Contact Tracing*
  • Cross Infection / transmission*
  • Cross Infection / virology
  • Equipment Contamination*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Hepacivirus / genetics*
  • Hepatitis C / transmission*
  • Hepatitis C / virology
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Phylogeny
  • RNA, Viral / genetics


  • RNA, Viral