HIV and HTLV infections in 1305 transfusion-dependent thalassemics in Italy

F. Mozzi, P. Rebulla, F. Lillo, O. E. Varnier, C. Biadati, L. Calcagno, S. Melotti, G. Sirchia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To evaluate the prevalence of antibodies to HIV-1/2 and HTLV-I/II in 1305 transfusion-dependent β-thalassemics treated in 36 centres in Italy. Design: Patient serum samples were collected during 1990 and tested in Milan. Methods: Sera were screened using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) containing viral lysate antigens from HIV-1 and HIV-2, and a particle agglutination assay for the detection of antibodies to HTLV-I and HTLV-II. Repeatedly reactive samples were examined by Western blot (WB) assays containing recombinant and viral lysate antigens. Differential diagnosis was finally made by ELISA based on synthetic peptides. Results: Samples from 36 of the 1305 patients (2.76%) contained anti-HIV-1 antibodies. In four patients seroconversion occurred after the implementation of anti-HIV-1 screening in blood donors in Italy (1985). Of the 36 HIV-1-antibody-positive samples, four were HIV-1 WB indeterminate. These four samples were negative in assays based on specific synthetic peptides, suggesting cross-reactivity. Anti-HTLV-I antibodies were found in two patients from Sicily and one from Apulia, both southern Italian regions. Anti-HTLV-II antibodies were detected in another patient from Sicily. Conclusions: Antibodies to HIV-1, HIV-2, HTLV-I and HTLV-II were detected in 2.76, 0, 0.23 and 0.08% of patients, respectively. The residual risk of HIV-1 infection through blood transfusion after the implementation of anti-HIV-1 screening in blood donors in Italy was approximately 1:50 000 blood units; this is based on an approximate number of 200 000 blood units administered to our group of patients during 1986-1990 and the occurrence of four new anti-HIV-1 seroconversions. Seroconversions to HTLV-I/II suggest that these viruses are present in Italian blood donors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)505-508
Number of pages4
JournalAIDS (London, England)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1992


  • β-thalassemia
  • Acquired immunodeficiency
  • HIV-1
  • HIV-2
  • HTLV-I
  • Transfusion-dependent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy


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