Erythrovirus B19 infection is usually benign but may have serious consequences in patients with hemolytic anemia (transient aplastic crisis), immunodeficiency (in whom persistent infection can lead to chronic bone marrow failure with anemia), or who are in the first or second trimester of gestation (spontaneous abortion, hydrops fetalis, and fetal death).
Being non-enveloped, B19 resists most inactivation methods and can be transmitted by transfusion. B19 is difficult to cultivate and native virus is usually obtained from viremic blood. As specific antibodies may be absent, and there is no reliable immunological method for antigen detection, hybridization or polymerase chain reaction are needed for detecting viremia. A rapid method, gel hemagglutination (Diamed ID-Parvovirus B19 Antigen Test), can disclose highly viremic donations, whose elimination lessens the viral burden in pooled blood products and may even render them non-infectious. In order to obtain native antigen and to determine the frequency of viremic donors, we applied this test to blood donors in a period of high viral activity in our community. Positive or indeterminate results were re-tested by dot-blot hybridization. We tested 472 donors in 1998 and 831 ones in 1999. One viremic donor was found in 1999. We suggest that in periods of high community viral activity the gel hemagglutination test may be useful in avoiding highly viremic blood being added to plasma pools or directly transfused to patients under risk.