A group of blood donors involved in post-transfusion hepatitis was investigated for the presence of the anti-HCV antibody and of HCV RNA as a more direct infection marker. RNA was extracted from serum, reverse transcribed and amplified using primers which belonged to the non structural region. The amplified product of the PCR reaction was 582 base pairs. Seven (25.9%) of the 27 blood donors examined were found anti-HCV-positive by ELISA; five (71.4%) of these were HCV RNA positive. Among the 20 anti-HCV-negative blood donors, four (20.0%) were HCV RNA positive. ALT levels were below 45 UI/l in 18 donors, while the other nine had ALTs over the limit accepted for transfusion. The anti-HCV-negative HCV RNA-positive blood donors had normal ALTs. Our study offers a direct explanation for the substantial proportion of residual cases of anti-HCV-positive post-transfusion hepatitis and suggests the necessity of creating a register of blood donors who have at some time presented blood enzyme abnormalities and for whom second level investigations such as HCV RNA should be used.
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