Scientists have discovered a new virus apparently transmitted through blood transfusions. Little else is known about human hepegivirus-1, or HHpgV-1, besides that it looks a bit like hepatitis C and the harmless and perhaps beneficial human pegivirus. "It is the first transfusion-associated virus that's been described in a long time," a researcher tells NBC News. He adds "we don't know if it is going to be a significant cause of human hepatitis," but scientists say it's unlikely. In fact, "it may be good for you." They first found the virus in blood samples from two volunteers, part of a study of 46, who received blood transfusions to treat hemophilia between 1974 and 1980. The virus only appeared after transfusions, but both patients cleared it and showed no sign of disease. Two more cases were found among 106 who'd received plasma, per mBio; both cleared the virus, though one was infected for five years.
Even if the virus is harmful, researchers say there's no need to panic. "This is not SARS. This is not MERS. This is not HIV," says an expert. Whereas blood transfusions were once performed solely with human blood products, they now use genetically engineered products. Plus, blood is screened more carefully and stricter policies better control who donates blood compared to 25 years ago. "Does it cause trouble that would justify any response with blood safety? I don’t think we're at that level," a pathologist at the Blood Systems Research Institute tells Science. Scientists have yet to isolate the virus but say the next step is to develop an antibody test to find HHpgV-1 in a larger population. Afterward, experts can determine whether those with HHpgV-1 antibodies appear less healthy than those without the virus and look for links to disease. (A study suggests the seeds of Alzheimer's may pass through blood.)