Following the discovery of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in 1989, screening of all blood donors for antibodies became mandatory in Sweden as of 1 January 1992.
Serum samples were collected from patients who had received a blood transfusion in the period prior to 1992 in western Sweden. The prevalence of HCV infection was assessed by antibody screening.
Of 13,573 screening serologies, 124 patients (0.9%) had antibodies against HCV; 113 (0.8%) had detectable HCV RNA indicating an ongoing infection. Ninety-one (73%) were female, of whom 32 had been transfused in conjunction with childbirth. A review of the 32 liver biopsy reports available showed that 2 patients had cirrhosis and an additional 9 patients had periportal or septal fibrosis.
A considerable portion of screened patients had an ongoing HCV infection and were eligible for antiviral treatment. Look-back screening for HCV among recipients of blood transfusions prior to 1992 is meaningful and should include women transfused in childbirth.