Background: West Nile virus is a mosquito transmitted virus that can cause disease in humans and horses. A majority of people infected with WNV will have no symptoms or may only experience mild symptoms, such as headaches. About 20% of infected humans develop a flu-like illness characterized by fever; while in the elderly and immunocompromised West Nile virus can cause a more serious neurologic disease and may be fatal. West Nile virus infection is endemic in the Middle East. West Nile virus can also be transmitted by transfusion through infected blood components.
The objective of this study is to find the West Nile virus-RNA incidence and anti-West Nile virus prevalence amongst Iranian blood donors in order to determine whether this emerging infection is a possible risk for the blood supply in Iran.
Methods: Serum samples from 500 blood donors who donated blood at the Tehran Blood Transfusion Center were collected between May and October 2005. Serum samples were examined for IgM and IgG antibodies to West Nile virus using the ELISA method. The samples were tested for the presence of West Nile virus RNA by the real-time RT-polymerase chain reaction assay. All data were analyzed statistically using the Chi-Square test.
Results: All 500 donors were negative for West Nile virus-specific IgM antibody at the time of donation. No WNV RNA-positive samples were detected. The percentage of seropositivity of IgG antibodies to WNV was 5% at donation.
Conclusion: No evidence of WNV-specific IgM antibody and WNV RNA in blood donor samples was found. In order to increase the safety of blood donation, it is essential to continue surveillance of this emerging infection in order to protect the blood supply in the future.