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Prevalence of hepatitis E virus antibodies and infection in New Zealand blood donors

Abstract

Blood transfusion is one route of transmission of hepatitis E virus (HEV). The aim of this study was to assess both the prevalence of HEV antibodies and HEV infection in New Zealand blood donors. To determine HEV seroprevalence, donor plasma samples (n= 1,013) were tested for HEV antibodies using two commercially available ELISA kits, the Wantai HEV IgG ELISA and the MP Diagnostics HEV ELISA 4.0. To assess the prevalence of HEV infection, pooled plasma samples from individual plasma donors (n= 5,000) were tested for HEV RNA using RT-qPCR. Samples that tested HEV antibody positive or gave an equivocal result with either ELISA were also tested for HEV RNA. The HEV seroprevalence in New Zealand blood donors was 9.7% using the Wantai HEV IgG ELISA and 8.1% using the MP Diagnostics HEV ELISA 4.0. The presence of HEV antibodies was significantly and positively correlated with increasing donor age. HEV RNA was not detected in any of the samples tested, indicating no evidence of current infection. This study, the largest to date to assess HEV seroprevalence in New Zealand, provides valuable baseline information on HEV seroprevalence and infection in New Zealand blood donors. The seroprevalence rate in New Zealand is similar to that reported in other developed countries.

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