A recent study in hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-negative, antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc)-positive blood donors from a population with a high prevalence of hepatitis B serologic markers showed the presence of hepatitis B virus DNA (HBV DNA) as detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 4 percent of these donors. A sensitive, nested PCR assay was used to assess the prevalence of HBV DNA in a population of HBsAg-negative, anti-HBc-positive blood donors from a United States population with a low prevalence of hepatitis B serologic markers. The lower limit for detection by the PCR assay was 10(-5) pg per mL of HBV DNA. There was a review of 26,492 consecutive blood donations in a 12-month period. During this time, only 1 unit (0.004%) was HBsAg positive. An additional 158 units (0.6%) were repeatably reactive for anti-HBc. These 158 HBsAg-negative, anti-HBc-positive units were given by 119 donors of blood for allogeneic and autologous use. HBV DNA was not detected by PCR in blood from 83 allogeneic blood donors (93 samples) or 36 autologous blood donors (65 samples). Anti-HBc testing is an inefficient means of screening for potential hepatitis B infectivity and is associated with low test specificity in populations with a low prevalence of hepatitis B serologic markers.