Transfusions Can Transmit Human Herpesvirus 8

High rate of seroconversion observed in Uganda, but study's relevance may be different in the United States

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- The Kaposi's sarcoma-associated virus, human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8), is transmissible by blood transfusion, according to the results of a study published in the Sept. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Wolfgang Hladik, M.D., of the Global Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome Program in Entebbe, Uganda, and colleagues studied 1,811 Ugandan patients who received blood transfusions between December 2000 and October 2001.

Of the 991 patients who were HHV-8-seronegative before transfusion, 43 percent received HHV-8-seropositive blood and 57 percent received seronegative blood. The researchers found that HHV-8 seroconversion occurred in 41 patients. They also found that blood units stored for four days or less were more often associated with seroconversion than those stored for more than four days (excess risk, 4.2 percent).

"The relevance of our findings with respect to the U.S. blood supply may be different from that in Uganda, since the seroprevalence of HHV-8 among blood donors in the United States is low (3.5 percent)," the authors conclude. "Most blood products in the United States are leukocyte reduced, but the efficacy of this technique for reducing the risk of HHV-8 infection has not been evaluated. The risk of transfusion-associated Kaposi's sarcoma would be highest among HIV-infected and other immunocompromised recipients. Selective screening of blood products for immunocompromised populations may be warranted if this approach is found to be effective."

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