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Current Trends Results of Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Type III Test Kits Reported from Blood Collection Centers -- United States, April 22,-May 19, 1985

In March 1983, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) recommended that members of groups at increased risk for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) refrain from donating plasma and/or blood (1). The recommendation was made to decrease the risk of AIDS associated with the administration of blood or blood products, which accounts for about 2% of all reported AIDS cases in the United States (2).

Since that recommendation, evidence has shown that a newly recognized retrovirus, human T-lymphotropic virus type III (HTLV-III), is the cause of AIDS (3-5). An ELISA test designed to detect antibody to HTLV-III was developed. A previous report described serologic surveys with use of this test (6). In January 1985, the PHS issued provisional recommendations for screening donated blood and plasma for antibody to HTLV-III (6). In early March, ELISA test kits developed for detecting antibody to HTLV-III in donated blood and plasma were licensed and made commercially available.

The American Red Cross, the Council of Community Blood Centers, and the American Association of Blood Banks have provided data on test kit results for the 4-week period April 22, to May 19, 1985. During this period, 131 blood centers and banks reported results from screening 593,831 units of blood. An initially reactive test was found for 5,313 units (0.89%); 1,484 units (0.25%) were repeatedly reactive.* Repeatedly reactive rates varied by region of the country, ranging from 0.08% to 0.32% (Table 1). Reported by the American Red Cross; Council of Community Blood Centers; American Association of Blood Banks; Office of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Center for Drugs and Biologics, U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: The data shown represent about 70% of all blood collected in the United States during the 1-month period. They demonstrate rapid implementation of HTLV-III antibody screening nationally. Since these data represent initial results of testing by many centers, future results may vary. It is not possible from these data to determine how many of the repeatedly reactive samples represent true HTLV-III infection or are false positives. Additional data correlating screening results and other test methods, such as Western blot, will be presented at a conference sponsored by CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to be held at NIH on July 31, 1985. Organizations wishing to send representatives to this conference or persons wishing to attend should contact one of the three agencies for additional information.


  1. CDC. Prevention of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS): report of inter-agency recommendations. MMWR 1983;32:101-3.

  2. CDC. Update: acquired immunodeficiency syndrome--United States. MMWR 1985;34:245-8.

  3. Gallo RC, Salahuddin SZ, Popovic M, et al. Frequent detection and isolation of cytopathic retroviruses (HTLV-III) from patients with AIDS and at risk for AIDS. Science 1984;224:500-3.

  4. Barre-Sinoussi F, Chermann JC, Rey F, et al. Isolation of a T-lymphotropic retrovirus from a patient at risk for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Science 1983;220:868-71.

  5. Levy JA, Hoffman AD, Kramer SM, Landis JA, Shimabukuro JS, Oshiro LS. Isolation of lymphocytopathic retroviruses from San Francisco patients with AIDS. Science 1984;225:840-2.

  6. CDC. Provisional Public Health Service inter-agency recommendations for screening donated blood and plasma for antibody to the virus causing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. MMWR 1985;34:1-5. *A sample that is reactive on two independent ELISA assays (done in duplicate at the same time or singly at different times) is defined as repeatedly reactive. If tested three times, and found reactive twice, it is also defined as repeatedly reactive.

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