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Improving testing for Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) in Scotland

Published on 17 February 2022

Dr Nicole Priddee, Consultant Haematologist

Drs Emma Wakins and Heli Harvala recently published an informative blog Time for change – Addressing the risk of occult hepatitis B in blood donations which highlighted work that had been undertaken to make blood safer by improving blood donor testing for HBV.

At SNBTS, we have been testing blood donations for Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), the hallmark of HBV, since 1972 and we further enhanced donation screening with introduction of testing for HBV DNA, another marker of active virus, in 2010. Rates of HBV transmission in the UK are low at 0.87 per million donations (SHOT Report, 2020), with no cases reported in Scotland since 2005 but a small risk remains.

Alongside our colleagues in the UK Blood Services, SNBTS welcomes the UK Advisory Committee of the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs' (SaBTO’s) recommendation to introduce testing of blood donors for Hepatitis B core antibodies.

This will allow us to make the blood safer for our patients in Scotland.