Nosocomial transmission of HCV in the liver unit of a tertiary care center


  • Conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Despite its medical and legal implications, there are no prospective studies analyzing the incidence and mechanisms involved in the nosocomial transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in liver units. This study prospectively investigates the nosocomial transmission of HCV in the liver unit of a tertiary care center from August 2000 to October 2002. The median prevalence of HCV infection among hospitalized patients was 50%. Anti-HCV–negative patients admitted to the liver unit during the study period were prospectively followed, and serum markers of HCV infection were repeated 6 months after discharge. All known risk factors for HCV transmission (including the physical allocation of HCV-infected and noninfected patients during hospitalization) were recorded. Complete follow-up data were available in 1,301 (84.5%) of 1,540 patients. Six patients (0.46%) acquired HCV infection (annual incidence: 0.27/100 admissions). Phylogenetic analyses of recovered HCV sequences identified the source of infection as an HCV-infected roommate (3 cases) and a patient receiving care by the same nurse team (1 case). The most relevant risk factors associated with HCV acquisition were duration of hospitalization (>10 days; OR, 35; 95% CI, 1.96-622) and hospitalization with an HCV-infected roommate (>5 days; OR, 12; 95% CI, 1.39-103). In fact, HCV infection occurred in 1.7% of the 357 patients hospitalized longer than 10 days. In conclusion, HCV nosocomial infection appears to occur via patient-to-patient transmission in liver units, particularly in individuals who require long hospitalizations. Continuous reinforcement of universal prevention measures and, when possible, isolation of patients at higher risk might further reduce nosocomial HCV transmission. (HEPATOLOGY 2005;41:115–122.)