Serum alanine transaminase (ALT) has been used as a surrogate marker for detection of hepatitis B and C in blood donors in Pakistan since 1985. Since the introduction of more sensitive assays the value of ALT became questionable but it was still used with subsequent wastage of blood units with raised ALT.
We conducted a study for a period of one year to evaluate the usefulness of ALT. During the study period, 25117 subjects donated blood. Eight hundred and seventy two donors (3.4%) were positive for one or more serological tests. ALT of all donors ranged from 0-1501 U/L (Mean +/- SD; 33.4 +/- 25.45U/L). The donors seronegative for all disease markers were 24245 (96.6%). Of these, 21164 (84.2%) donors had their ALT within reference range while 2874 (11.4%) and 207 (0.8%) of donors had minimal and markedly elevated results respectively. Six hundred and twenty one blood units (including red cells, platelets and plasma) were discarded based on elevated ALT results alone at a cost of $39,123. Two hundred seronegative blood donors with normal ALT, minimally and markedly elevated ALT levels, were selected randomly and evaluated for hepatitis B deoxynucleic acid by individual PCR. None of the donors was found to be reactive.
This work did not support a positive association between hepatitis B virus nucleic acid and elevated ALT in healthy serologically negative blood donors.