Prevalence, incidence and residual risk of transfusion-transmitted hepatitis B virus infection in Italy from 2009 to 2018

Claudio Velati, Luisa Romanò, Ilaria Pati, Giuseppe Marano, Vanessa Piccinini, Liviana Catalano, Simonetta Pupella, Stefania Vaglio, Eva Veropalumbo, Francesca Masiello, Giulio Pisani, Giuliano Grazzini, Alessandro Zanetti, Giancarlo M Liumbruno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: In Italy, the use of nucleic acid testing for hepatitis B virus (HBV) in donor screening has allowed the detection of infections in the window phase, as well as the presence of occult infections which could potentially be transmitted. The aim of this study was to analyse the trends of epidemiological data focused on HBV infection in blood donors and to estimate the residual risk of transmitting HBV from both the window phase and occult infection over a 10-year period in Italy.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data were obtained from the Italian Haemovigilance System which includes the results of screening tests for transfusion transmissible infections. During the period of this survey (2009-2018), the molecular methods used for HBV screening were transcription-mediated amplification and polymerase chain reaction tests. Prevalence and incidence were calculated. The residual risk was estimated by applying the incidence-window period model for acute cases and a more recently reported model for estimating the risk due to occult infections.

RESULTS: A total of 17,424,535 blood donors and 30,842,794 donations were tested for HBV. Altogether, 6,250 donors tested positive for HBV markers: 4,782 (175.6×105) were first time donors and 1,468 (10.0×105) were repeat donors. The prevalence of HBV markers in first time donors was 275.9×105 in 2009, declining to 143.6×105 in 2018. The incidence of new infections was 3.37×105 in 2009 and 2.17×105 in 2018. The overall residual risk for HBV amounted to 1 in 2,566,854 donations calculated as the sum of risks of both acute infections in the window period (1 in 5,835,306 donations) and occult infections (1 in 4,582,270 blood units).

DISCUSSION: In Italy, the residual risk of transfusing a blood unit infected with HBV, both from window phase and occult infections, is currently very low, amounting to levels that can be considered tolerable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-417
Number of pages9
JournalBlood Transfus
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Donors
  • Blood Safety
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B/blood
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Italy/epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prevalence
  • Transfusion Reaction/blood


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