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Hidden dangers-prevalence of blood borne pathogens, hepatitis B, C, HIV and syphilis, among blood donors in Sierra Leone in 2016: opportunities for improvement: a retrospective, cross-sectional study.INTRODUCTION: Transmissible blood-borne infections are a serious threat to blood transfusion safety in West African countries; and yet blood remains a key therapeutic product in the clinical management of patients. Sierra Leone screens blood donors for blood-borne infections but has not implemented prevention of mother-to-child transmission for hepatitis B. This study aimed to describe the overall prevalence of hepatitis B and C, HIV and syphilis among blood donors in Sierra Leone in 2016 and to compare the differences between volunteer versus family replacement donors, as well as urban versus rural donors. METHODS: Retrospective, cross-sectional study from January-December 2016 in five blood bank laboratories across the country. Routinely-collected programme data were analyzed; blood donors were tested with rapid diagnostic tests-HBsAg for HBV, anti-HCV antibody for HCV, antibodies HIV1&2 for HIV and TPHA for syphilis. RESULTS: There were 16807 blood samples analysed, with 80% from males; 2285 (13.6%) tested positive for at least one of the four pathogens. Overall prevalence was: 9.7% hepatitis B; 1.0% hepatitis C; 2.8% HIV; 0.8% syphilis. Prevalence was higher among samples from rural blood banks, the difference most marked for hepatitis C. The proportion of voluntary donors was 12%. Family replacement donors had a higher prevalence of hepatitis B, C and HIV than volunteers. CONCLUSION: A high prevalence of blood-borne pathogens, particularly hepatitis B, was revealed in Sierra Leone blood donors. The study suggests the country should implement the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B and push to recruit more volunteer, non-remunerated blood donors.