To study the incidence and outcome of GB virus C (GBV-C) infection in blood recipients. Serum samples collected in a prospective study were examined for GBV-C RNA by a nested polymerase chain reaction assay. Among the 400 adults who underwent cardiac surgery, 40 were positive for GBV-C RNA, including six whose pretransfusion sera were already positive and seven coinfected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) during transfusion. The risk of transmission was estimated to be approximately 0.46% per donor. GBV-C viremia was detectable 1 week after transfusion and could persist for 8 years. However, no evident symptoms or signs were noted in the 25 patients infected by GBV-C alone, and the average peak serum alanine aminotransferase activity was 31 IU/L only (range, 12 to 123), with persistently normal levels in 20 patients. In the seven patients coinfected with HCV, the clinical courses of posttransfusion hepatitis were similar to those infected by HCV alone. In eight patients with posttransfusion non-A approximately E hepatitis, only one was positive for GBV-C RNA. Sixty samples were chosen to test hepatitis G virus (HGV) sequences, 26 of the 30 GBV-C positives were positive for HGV RNA in contrast to none of the 30 GBV-C negative samples. In conclusion, GBV-C can be transmitted by transfusion in approximately 9% of patients who underwent cardiac surgery. Nevertheless, this virus does not seem to cause classic hepatitis in most instances.

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