Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a significant problem in the management of haemodialysis patients. A high prevalence of HCV infection in haemodialysis patients has been reported. Risk factors such as the number of blood transfusions or duration on haemodialysis have been identified.
Aim: To determine the prevalence of HCV by antibody testing and HCV-RNA determination by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in haemodialysis patients. Furthermore, liver function tests were performed and epidemiological data were obtained to determine risk factors for HCV in this cohort of patients.
Results: A total of 2796 patients from 43 dialysis centres were enrolled. The overall prevalence of HCV (HCV antibody and/or HCV-RNA positivity) was 7.0% (195 patients). Antibody positivity occurred in 171 patients (6.1%). Viraemia was detectable in 111 patients (4.0%). Twenty four of 111 HCV RNA positive patients (21.6%) were negative for HCV antibodies. Thus 0.8% of the entire study population was HCV positive but could not be diagnosed by routine HCV antibody testing. Major risk factors identified by a standard questionnaire in 1717 of 2796 patients were the number of blood transfusions individuals had received and duration of dialysis, the latter including patients who received no blood transfusions. Sequencing of the 5`untranslated region of the genome showed a dominant genotype 1 (77.6%) within the cohort. Further reverse transcription-PCR of the NS5b and core region were performed to document phylogenetic analysis. Comparing nucleic acid sequences detected by PCR, no homogeneity was found and thus nosocomial transmission was excluded.
Conclusions: HCV is common in German haemodialysis patients but screening for HCV antibodies alone does not exclude infection with HCV.
- hepatitis C
- risk factors
- HCV, hepatitis C virus
- PCR, polymerase chain reaction
- RT-PCR, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction
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