Blood borne virus unit (BBVU): services

BBVU offers laboratory reference services and carries out research and development on hepatitis viruses, and has a remit for blood safety.

About Blood borne virus unit (BBVU)

BBVU is a joint UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) unit. The unit works closely with the Clinical Services Unit (CSU) and provides specialist reference testing for the hepatitis viruses. The unit undertakes surveillance, research and development activities for hepatitis A virus (HAV) through to hepatitis E virus (HEV), and also for pathogens that impact on blood safety.

Services available

BBVU provide reference services for:

  • HAV RNA detection and phylogenetics
  • hepatitis B virus (HBV) sequencing genotyping and phylogenetics
  • HBV antiviral resistance testing by sequencing
  • screening for HBV surface antigen mutations by sequencing
  • screening for HBV pre-core and basal core promoter mutations by sequencing
  • hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotyping and phylogenetics
  • hepatitis D virus (HDV) RNA detection and quantification
  • HEV RNA detection and quantification
  • HEV genotyping and phylogenetics
  • outbreak or transmission investigation for HAV, HBV, HCV and HEV

Use form:

Further information on other hepatitis investigations is available through the Clinical Services Unit (CSU).

BBVU surveillance activities

Activities include:

  • national programme undertaking molecular characterisation of viruses linked to food-borne and travel related HAV infections (includes oral fluid testing to identify cases)
  • enhanced surveillance of acute HBV (avidity testing to confirm diagnosis with linked molecular characterisation and phylogeny)
  • monitoring of HBV vaccine breakthrough infections in infants with linked virological characterisation of HBV-infected mothers
  • enhanced surveillance of HEV infections (monitors hepatitis E case numbers nationally with linked molecular characterisation and phylogeny)
  • rolling programme undertaking molecular characterisation of BBVs (HIV, HBV and HCV) in identified infected blood donors
  • HEV seroprevalence studies in blood donors.
  • unlinked anonymous survey in People Who Inject Drugs

BBVU research and development activities

Activities include:

  • HBV surface antigen phenotyping studies
  • development and application of genomic technologies for HBV and HEV
  • establishment of in vitro based models for studying HBV and HEV
  • investigating prevalence, immunological determinants of persistence and outcome of chronic HEV infections in the immunosuppressed population
  • development of tools for investigating indigenous HEV infections (recombinant protein expression and monoclonal antibody production)
  • programme of studies investigating HEV and the food chain
  • development of Ebola antibody and antigen detection systems for convalescent plasma studies; development of antibody detection assays for Zika
  • development of detection methods for non-venous analytes to improve diagnosis
  • investigating the role of HEV antigen detection; development of HEV antigen neutralisation

BBVU guidance and forms

Contact BBVU

Blood borne virus unit (BBVU)

UK Health Security Agency
61 Colindale Avenue

Telephone 020 8327 6234 / 6554 / 6555

Fax 020 8200 1569

DX address DX 6530006 Colindale NW

Published 8 August 2014
Last updated 17 January 2023 + show all updates
  1. Added request form S41 'Adenovirus Testing in Whole Blood'.

  2. Removed link to 'Recommended protocol for HBV genotyping and for antiviral resistance analysis'.

  3. Updated page with details of new services.

  4. First published.