Twenty-nine sufferers of hepatitis-B virus (HBV) or hepatitis-C
virus (Hepatitis C Virus) may have been infected through blood
transfusions conducted across the country in the
April-June period, the Health, Labor and Welfare
Ministry warned Tuesday.
Dozens of people may have been infected with hepatitis
viruses through transfusions.
A highly sensitive testing method was used to examine the donor
blood, but when the recipients were subsequently
examined using the same method, 28 of them tested
negative to the viruses even though they were confirmed
The ministry explained that even though the method, which was
developed in 1999, is highly regarded, it cannot detect
such viruses in all cases.
"Although the method is of great precision, it's not
perfect. When blood donors test positive, we'll
(continue to) check the dates they donated their blood
and quickly dispose of it," a ministry official
The ministry recently examined the April-June period of reports
it receives from medical institutions across the country
on side effects of treatment. It found that 11 patients
may have contracted HBV through blood products used in
blood transfusions, and that another 18 may have
contracted Hepatitis C Virus.
Traditional methods cannot detect HBV and Hepatitis C Virus in recently
infected blood because it contains only small numbers of
antibodies and viruses.
In 1999, the Japanese Red Cross Society introduced a more
sensitive nucleic acid amplification testing (NAT)
method that can detect even a small number of viruses by
amplifying genes they contain.
The method was used to examine the blood of the 29 people who
had contracted HBV and Hepatitis C Virus, but 28 of them tested
negative to the viruses.
It has been pointed out that even NAT can overlook hepatitis
and HIV in contaminated blood if tests are conducted
shortly after infection.
However, the ministry has not received any report that
HIV-contaminated blood has passed NAT, officials said.
(Mainichi Shimbun, Japan, July 15, 2003)