In a population-based survey, 39 (0.90%) of 4,496 Saudi Arabian children (ages 1 to 10) were positive for antibody to hepatitis C virus. No significant difference was seen between the prevalence rate in males (0.9%) and females (0.8%) or between urban (0.7%) and rural dwellers (1.0%). A significant variation of rates (0% to 5.7%) was seen from one region to another. The Gizan population, noted for hyperendemic hepatitis B virus infection, had the highest prevalence of antibody to hepatitis C virus despite its cultural and socioeconomic similarities to other regions. In some regions of Saudi Arabia the prevalence of antibody to hepatitis C virus among children was 0% despite endemic rates for both hepatitis B virus and hepatitis A virus infections.
An inverse relationship between age and antibody to hepatitis C virus positivity was noted, suggesting an early acquisition of infection in the population studied. Although the overall prevalence of antibody to hepatitis C virus in Saudi children appears low, endemic foci exist where transmission of infection appears to occur early in childhood. The significance of this characteristic for the incidence of chronic sequelae of hepatitis C virus infection needs further evaluation. (HEPATOLOGY 1991;14:215–218.)