Infection with hepatitis G virus among recipients of plasma products.
Jarvis LM., Davidson F., Hanley JP., Yap PL., Ludlam CA., Simmonds P.
BACKGROUND: Hepatitis G virus (HGV or GBV-C) is a newly discovered human flavivirus distantly related to hepatitis C virus (HCV). Little information is available on its natural history or routes of transmission, although it can be transmitted parenterally. We investigated the prevalence of persistent infection of HGV and HCV in patients exposed to non-virus-inactivated pooled blood products associated with transmission of HCV. METHODS: RNA was extracted from the plasma of 112 patients with haemophilia and 57 with hypogammaglobulinaemia, as well as from 64 different batches of archived coagulation-factor concentrates and immunoglobulins. RNA was reverse transcribed and amplified with primers from the 5' non-coding region of HCV and HGV by a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Viral RNA was quantified by titration of complementary DNA before amplification. FINDINGS: Among non-renumerated UK blood donors HGV infection (detected by PCR) was more common than HCV infection (four [3.2%] of 125 compared with 137 [0.076%] of 180658 in southeast Scotland). Testing of batches of factor VIII and factor IX concentrates prepared without viral inactivation procedures showed high frequencies of contamination with HGV (16 of 17 factor VIII batches positive; six of six factor IX batches positive), with no difference between renumerated and non-renumerated donors. However, among 95 haemophiliacs who had received non-virus-inactivated concentrates, 13 (14%) were positive for HGV compared with 79 (83%) who were positive for HCV. Two of 37 recipients of long-term immunoglobulin replacement therapy were positive for HGV. Virus inactivation of blood products substantially reduced or eliminated contamination by HGV RNA sequences. INTERPRETATION: Despite the extremely high level of HGV contamination of non-virus-inactivated blood products, their use was not associated with high rates of persistent infection in recipients. The infectivity of HGV in blood products may be lower than that of HCV, or the virus may be less able to establish persistent infection in humans. Whatever the case, the high prevalence of active HGV infection in the general population remains difficult to explain.