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      Quantitative Assessment of HCV Load in Chronic Hemodialysis Patients: A Cross-Sectional Survey

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          Recent evidence has been accumulated showing that chronic hemodialysis (HD) patients have a very high prevalence of antibodies to hepatitis C virus (HCV). In contrast, there is little information addressing the virological characteristics of HCV infection in this population. Aim: To measure HCV viral load and to correlate this with demographic, biochemical, and clinical features of a large cohort of HCV-infected patients on chronic HD. Methods: 394 chronic HD patients were tested by branched-DNA signal amplification assay, anti-HCV enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay 2.0, and on the basis of the aspartate aminotransferase/alanine aminotransferase (AST/ALT) activity. Multivariate analysis by ordinal logistic regression model was performed: age, gender, race, time on HD, allocation of the patients among the HD units, etiology of end-stage renal disease, HBsAg status, anti-HCV positivity, HCV genotype, and AST/ALT levels were independent factors, and viremic levels of HCV in serum were assumed as dependent variables. Results: 88 (22.3%) patients showed serological and/or virological signs of HCV infection. 59 (15%) out of 394 had detectable HCV RNA in serum, the mean HCV load was 19.4 × 10<sup>5</sup> (95% CI, 6.06 × 10<sup>7</sup> to 6.2 × 10<sup>4</sup>) Eq/ml. According to the criteria suggested by others [J Infect Dis 1994;169:1219–1225], there were 8 (13.5%) individuals with high-titer viremia (>1 × 10<sup>7</sup> Eq/ml) in the subset of viremic patients. A small subset (8/394 or 2%) of individuals was seronegative, but viremic; 29 (7%) out of 394 were seropositive without detectable HCV RNA in serum. Univariate analysis showed that the frequency of anti-HCV positivity was significantly higher in viremic patients as compared with individuals with no detectable HCV viremia: 51/59 (86%) vs. 29/335 (8.6%), p = 0.0001. Serum AST and ALT levels were significantly higher in viremic patients than in individuals with no detectable HCV RNA in serum: 23.8 (95% CI 60.8–9.3) vs. 17.1 (95% CI 50.4–5.8) U/l (p = 0.009) and 14.4 (95% CI 48.9–4.3) vs. 9.8 (95% CI, 37.3– 2.5) U/l (p = 0.008). Logistic regression analysis showed an association between HCV viremia and anti-HCV positivity (p = 0.00001) and ALT activity (p = 0.01). Conclusions: Hepatitis C virus infection is highly prevalent in the HD population; the viral load is relatively low, and it was associated with elevated hepatic enzyme levels and anti-HCV positivity. No other clinical characteristics were associated with HCV RNA levels. Seronegative but viremic patients were also found. Longitudinal studies with long follow-up periods are necessary to evaluate the course of HCV load over time in this population.

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          Author and article information

          S. Karger AG
          December 1998
          07 December 1998
          : 80
          : 4
          : 428-433
          a Division of Digestive Diseases, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, Calif., b Chiron Corporation, Emeryville, Calif., USA; c Nephrology and Dialysis Division, Hospital Lecco, Italy
          45215 Nephron 1998;80:428–433
          © 1998 S. Karger AG, Basel

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          Tables: 2, References: 30, Pages: 6
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