Surveillance report Open Access
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Blood and plasma donations in Germany are collected by several institutions, namely the German Red Cross, community and hospital-based blood services, private blood centres, commercial plasma donation sites and transfusion services of the army. All blood donation centres are required to report quarterly data on infection markers to the Robert Koch Institute, thus providing current and accurate epidemiological data. The prevalence and incidence of relevant viral infections are low in the blood donor population in Germany, with a decreasing trend for hepatitis C infections in new and repeat donors since 1997. The implementation of mandatory nucleic acid amplification technique (NAT) testing for hepatitis C virus (HCV) in 1999 has markedly improved transfusion safety. HIV-NAT became mandatory in 2004 but was done voluntarily by the majority of the blood donation services before then. The potential benefit of hepatitis B virus (HBV) minipool NAT is not as clear because chronic HBV carriers with very low virus levels might donate unidentified. The residual risk of an infectious window period donation inadvertently entering the blood supply can be estimated using a mathematic model which multiplies the incidence rate by the number of days during which an infection may be present but not detectable, i.e. the length of the window period. The risk of an undetected infection without NAT testing was estimated to be 1 in 2 770 000 for HIV, 1 in 670 000 for HCV and 1 in 230 000 for HBV in 2001/2002. This contrasts with 1 in 5 540 000 for HIV, 1 in 4 400 000 for HCV and 1 in 620 000 for HBV with minipool NAT testing. This demonstrates that NAT testing can further reduce the already very small risk of infectious donations entering the blood supply.


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