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      Hepatitis C: an epidemiological review.

      Journal of Viral Hepatitis

      Blood Transfusion, Substance Abuse, Intravenous, Sexual Behavior, Risk-Taking, Risk Factors, Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical, Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional, Iatrogenic Disease, Humans, transmission, epidemiology, Hepatitis C, Hepacivirus, Health Personnel, Global Health, adverse effects

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          Abstract

          The aim of the study was to analyse the current literature regarding the mode of transmission of HCV and its global prevalence in different groups of people. A systematic review of the literature on the epidemiology of hepatitis C from 1991 to 2000 using computerized bibliographic databases which include Medline, Current Content and Embase. The prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) varies tremendously in different parts of the world, with the highest incidence in the Eastern parts of the globe compared with the Western parts. Furthermore, certain groups of individuals such as intravenous drug users are at increased risk of acquiring this disease irrespective of the geographical location. Although the main route of transmission is via contaminated blood, curiously enough in up to 50% of the cases no recognizable transmission factor/route could be identified. Therefore, a number of other routes of transmission such as sexual or household exposure to infected contacts have been investigated with conflicting results. Hepatitis C infection is an important public health issue globally. Better understanding of routes of transmission will help to combat the spread of disease. In order to prevent a world wide epidemic of this disease, urgent measures are required to (i) develop a strategy to inform and educate the public regarding this disease and (ii) expedite the efforts to develop a vaccine.

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          Most cited references 276

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          The prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection in the United States, 1988 through 1994.

          Because many persons with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are asymptomatic, population-based serologic studies are needed to estimate the prevalence of the infection and to develop and evaluate prevention efforts. We performed tests for antibody to HCV (anti-HCV) on serum samples from 21,241 persons six years old or older who participated in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted during 1988 through 1994. We determined the prevalence of HCV RNA by means of nucleic acid amplification and the genotype by means of sequencing. The overall prevalence of anti-HCV was 1.8 percent, corresponding to an estimated 3.9 million persons nationwide (95 percent confidence interval, 3.1 million to 4.8 million) with HCV infection. Sixty-five percent of the persons with HCV infection were 30 to 49 years old. Seventy-four percent were positive for HCV RNA, indicating that an estimated 2.7 million persons in the United States (95 percent confidence interval, 2.4 million to 3.0 million) were chronically infected, of whom 73.7 percent were infected with genotype 1 (56.7 percent with genotype 1a, and 17.0 percent with genotype 1b). Among subjects 17 to 59 years of age, the strongest factors independently associated with HCV infection were illegal drug use and high-risk sexual behavior. Other factors independently associated with infection included poverty, having had 12 or fewer years of education, and having been divorced or separated. Neither sex nor racial-ethnic group was independently associated with HCV infection. In the United States, about 2.7 million persons are chronically infected with HCV. People who use illegal drugs or engage in high-risk sexual behavior account for most persons with HCV infection.
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            Hepatitis C virus infection is associated with the development of hepatocellular carcinoma.

            A possible causative role for the recently discovered hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) was investigated by assay of sera from HCC patients in Japan for antibodies to a recombinant HCV antigen and to hepatitis B virus (HBV) antigens. Among the 253 HCC patients examined, 156 (61.7%) had no serum markers of either a previous or a current HBV infection (group I), 46 (18.2%) were negative for HBV surface antigen but positive for anti-HBV surface and/or anti-HBV core antibody, indicating the occurrence of a previous, transient HBV infection (group II), and 51 (20.2%) were chronically infected HBV carriers as evidenced by positivity for HBV surface antigen (group III). The prevalence of HCV antibody in group I (68.6%) and II (58.7%) patients was significantly higher than for group III (3.9%) or in 148 additional patients with other (non-HCC) cancers (10.1%) (P less than 0.01). Thus, there appears to be a strong association between HCV infection and the development of HCC, particularly in patients for which HBV infection cannot be implicated as a causative factor. The data also suggest an additional mode of transmission for HCV other than blood transfusion, since a history of blood transfusion was shown in only about 30% of the HCV antibody-positive HCC patients in groups I and II. A high prevalence of HCV antibody was also shown among patients with HCC whose disease was originally thought to be due to very high ethanol consumption.
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              Transmission of hepatitis C virus from mothers to infants. The Vertical Transmission of Hepatitis C Virus Collaborative Study Group.

              Although there are case reports of vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV), it remains uncertain to what extent infected mothers transmit this virus to their infants. We investigated the transmission of HCV from infected mothers to their babies by analyzing HCV RNA in the blood. Three independent studies were performed. First, 7698 parturient women were tested for anti-HCV antibodies; 53 were positive. Their 54 infants (including one set of twins) were followed prospectively for at least six months and tested for HCV disease were prospectively studied. Third, the families of three HCV-infected infants were examined retrospectively. Of the 53 antibody-positive mothers, 31 were also positive for serum HCV RNA: Three of the 54 babies born to these mothers (5.6 percent) became positive for HCV RNA during the follow-up period. None of the babies of the 22 women who were antibody-positive but HCV RNA-negative became positive for HCV RNA: In the second study, HCV RNA was detected in one of the six infants of infected mothers. In the third study, HCV RNA was detected in the mothers of the three HCV-infected infants. In each of the seven infected infants we studied, the genomic sequence of HCV was almost identical to that from the mother. These seven mothers had significantly higher titers of HCV RNA than did the mothers of infants with no evidence of infection (mean [+/- SD], 10(6.4 +/- 0.5) vs. 10(4.4 +/- 1.5) per milliliter; P < 0.001). HCV is vertically transmitted from mother to infant, and the risk of transmission is correlated with the titer of HCV RNA in the mother.
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