Arch Hellen Med, 16(5), September-October 1999, 480-487
of anti-HTLV-I-II in blood donors in Greece
A multi-center study
C. POLITIS,1 L.
KAVALLIEROU,1 E. GEORGAKOPOULOU,2 F. GOUNARI,2
I. SPILIOTOPOULOU,4 E. CHRISTAKI,5 I. KALITZERIS,6 K. FARMAKI,7
P. ZACHARAKI,8 O. MARANTIDOU,9 A. GANOCHORITIS,10 N. KOUKAKIS,11
G. HATZIDIMITRIOU,12 Ch. ECONOMOPOULOU6
1RGH Athens "G. Gennimatas", 2RGH GRC "Drakopoulion", 3PUGH Ioannina, 4RGH Athens "KAT",
5RGH" Athens "Sotiria", 6RGH Thessaloniki "AHEPA", 7GPH Korinthos, 8AGPH Thessaloniki "Ag. Pavlos", 9RGH Asklepieion,
10RGH Larissa, 11GPH Rhodes, 12RGH Athens "Evagelismos"
Since human lymphotropic viruses types I and II (HTLV-I-II) can be transmitted
by cellular elements in transfused blood, obligatory screening of donated blood
for anti-HTLV-I-II has been introduced in Japan, the USA and several EU countries.
In this study, we investigated the prevalence of anti-HTLV-I-II in a large number
of blood donors from various parts of Greece, in order to examine the case for
introducing obligatory screening in this country.
METHOD A total of 90,381 blood donations from 14 blood services located in Athens, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Korinthos, Larissa and Rhodes were tested for anti-HTLV-I and II following the protocol of the HTLV European Research Network (HERN). ELISA enzyme immunoassays (Abbott and Murex) were used for initial screening, with confirmation by Western blot (Pasteur and Genelabs). RESULTS Seventy six samples (0.08%) were positive on initial testing and 9 (0.009%) were confirmed positive. A further 10 (0.01%) were indeterminate. Anti-HTLV-I was detected in 8 (0.008%) samples and anti-HTLV-II in one (0.001%). Most seropositive donors were occasional donors, three of whom reported sexual contact with heterosexual partners with high-risk sexual behaviors. The donor positive for anti-HTLV-II had sexual contact with a foreign woman who worked in a bar and possibly used illicit drugs. The remaining seropositive donors were females who reported no risk factors for HTLV-I and II. The wife of one seropositive donor seroconverted for anti-HTLV-I 18 months after the detection of her husband's infection.
CONCLUSIONS A decade of research into the epidemiology of HTLV-I-II in Greece and elsewhere has shown that selecting blood donors only on the basis of medical history, nationality and country of origin, is insufficient to prevent the transfusion of those infections. Sexual transfusion and IV drug use have changed the epidemiology of HTLV in Europe; consequently Greece, with a large tourist industry and shipping trade, cannot ignore the danger of HTLV transmission through blood. The results of this multicentre study confirm the suggestion made in an earlier study that obligatory screening for HTLV is called for in Greece.
Key words: HTLV-I-II infection, Seropositive blood donors, Thalassemia.