Transmission of retroviruses from seronegative donors by transfusion during cardiac surgery. A multicenter study of HIV-1 and HTLV-I/II infections. Academic Article uri icon


  • OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effectiveness of serologic testing of blood donors for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and human T-cell lymphotropic virus types I and II (HTLV-I/II) infections and to estimate the risk for transmission of HIV-1 and HTLV-I/II by transfusion of seronegative blood from screened donors. DESIGN: A prospective multicenter cohort study of cardiac surgery patients who received multiple transfusions between 1985 and 1991. SETTING: Cardiac surgery services of three large tertiary care hospitals. PATIENTS: The study included 11,532 patients in three hospitals who had cardiovascular surgery. MEASUREMENTS: Incident HIV-1 and HTLV-I or HTLV-II infection. RESULTS: We detected two new HIV-1 infections among patients transfused with 120,312 units of blood components from seronegative donors. In each case a donor was detected on follow-up who had seroconverted since the donation. The HIV-1 infection rate was 0.0017% with an upper limit of the 95% CI of 0.0053%. Before donor screening for HTLV-I, transfusion of 51,026 units resulted in two HTLV-I infections (0.0039%) and four HTLV-II infections (0.0078%). After HTLV-I screening was instituted, one recipient was infected with HTLV-II among participants exposed to 69,272 units, a rate of 0.0014%. A corresponding HTLV-I/II-infected donor was found for this patient. CONCLUSION: Serologic screening of donors for antibodies to HIV-1 and HTLV-I coupled with exclusion of donors from groups having a relatively high risk for infection has led to a low incidence of transfusion-transmitted HIV-1 and HTLV-I/II infection in the United States. A small risk remains, however, despite these measures. We estimate the residual risk for HIV-1 and HTLV-II infection from transfusion of screened blood during the time of this study to be about 1 in 60,000 units.

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Nelson, K. E., Donahue, J. G., Muñoz, A., Cohen, N. D., Ness, P. M., Teague, A., ... McAllister, H.

citation count

  • 91

publication date

  • October 1992