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In high-income countries, hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection is mainly a zoonosis. However, it is also transfusion-transmissible and some countries, but not Italy, have introduced HEV screening for blood donations.


We assessed HEV infection prevalence and risk factors in a nationwide sample of Italian blood donors.


We selected 107 blood establishments (BE) distributed in the 20 Italian regions by a stratified two-stage design and invited them to participate in the study. Donors were tested for anti-HEV IgG and IgM and HEV RNA. Sociodemographic data and risk factors were collected through a questionnaire.


Overall, 60 BE from 60 provinces in 19 Italian regions joined the study. We assessed HEV markers in 7,172 blood donors, of whom 6,235 completed the questionnaire. Overall crude and adjusted anti-HEV IgG prevalences were 8.3% and 5.5%, respectively. Overall anti-HEV IgM prevalence was 0.5%, while no blood donor was HEV RNA-positive. Anti-HEV IgG prevalence varied widely among regions (range: 1.3%–27.20%) and hyperendemic prevalences (> 40%) were detected in some provinces in two regions. Older age (AOR = 1.81; 95% CI: 1.36–2.41), foreign nationality (AOR = 2.77; 95% CI: 1.06–7.24), eating raw pork liver sausages (AOR = 2.23; 95% CI: 1.55–3.20) and raw homemade sausages (AOR = 3.63; 95% CI: 2.50–5.24) were independent infection predictors.


Italian blood donors showed a low to moderate HEV seroprevalence. High levels in some regions and/or provinces were mainly attributable to eating habits. Prevention should include avoiding consumption of raw or undercooked meat and safe production of commercial pork products.


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