BACKGROUND: Current US military clinical practice guidelines permit emergency transfusions of non-Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-compliant freshly collected blood products in theaters of war. This investigation aimed to characterize the risks of transfusion-transmitted infections (TTIs) associated with battlefield transfusions of non-FDA-compliant blood products.
STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: US Service members who received emergency transfusion products in Iraq and Afghanistan (March 1, 2002-September 30, 2007) were tested for hepatitis C virus (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections using reposed pre- and posttransfusion sera. Selected regions of viral genomes from epidemiologically linked infected recipients and their donors were sequenced and compared.
RESULTS: Of 761 US Service members who received emergency transfusion products, 475 were tested for HCV, 472 for HIV, and 469 for HBV. One transfusion-transmitted HCV infection (incidence rate of 2.1/1000 persons) was identified. The pretransfusion numbers (prevalence per 1000 persons) were HCV-four (8/1000), HIV-zero (0/1000), chronic HBV-two (4 /1000), and naturally immune (antibody to HBV core antigen)-nine (19/1000).
CONCLUSION: One HCV TTI was determined to be associated with emergency blood product use. The pretransfusion HCV and HBV prevalence in transfusion recipients, themselves members of the potential donor population, indicates better characterization of the deployed force's actual donor population, and further investigations of the TTI prevalence in these donors are needed. These data will inform countermeasure development and clinical decision making.