BackgroundApproximately 20 percent of persons infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) clear viremia. Factors associated with resolution of viremia are not well defined. Implementation of routine nucleic acid testing (NAT) of blood donors has yielded a large data set for analysis of demographic correlates of resolved viremia.
Study design and methodsHCV antibody and NAT data, liver enzyme (alanine aminotransferase [ALT]) results, and donor demographic characteristics were compiled for 2,579,290 allogeneic donations given at five large blood centers after NAT implementation in 1999 through December 2001. Donation HCV RNA status was compared between first-time donors categorized by ALT levels, sex, age, race and/or ethnicity, country of birth, level of education, blood center location, and blood group, with chi-square tests and multivariable logistic regression methods.
ResultsOf 35 confirmed-seropositive repeat donors, 19 (54.3%) tested negative for the presence of HCV RNA; there was no association between RNA status and preseroconversion intervals (p = 0.74). Of 2105 RIBA-positive, first-time donors, 402 (19.1%) tested negative for the presence of HCV RNA by NAT (presumptive resolved infections). There were significant differences in the frequency of RNA negativity among first-time donors categorized by ALT levels and by race and/or ethnicity. ALT levels were more likely to be elevated in RNA-positive, first-time donors (p < 0.0001). Viremia was less likely to resolve in Asian (8.2%) and black non-Hispanic (14.4%) donors than in white non-Hispanic (20.7%), Hispanic (22.1%), and other race and/or ethnicity (22.1%) donors (p = 0.02). No significant associations were found for age, sex, country of origin, level of education, blood type, and donor center location.
ConclusionThese results confirm that the frequency of HCV RNA negativity among seropositive persons differs by race and/or ethnicity. Follow-up studies of donors with resolved viremia are warranted to further elucidate viral, immunologic, and genetic factors underlying spontaneous viral clearance.