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Abstract

The incidence of hepatitis C (HCV) infection and associated risk factors were prospectively assessed in a cohort of 6,734 Egyptians from 2 rural villages who were negative for antibodies to HCV (anti-HCV). Initial and follow-up sera were tested for anti-HCV by enzyme immunoassay (EIA), and possible incident cases were confirmed by using the microparticle enzyme immunoassay (MEIA) and tested for HCV RNA. All follow-up serum samples converting from negative to positive without detectable HCV-RNA were further tested by recombinant immunoblot assay. Over an average of 1.6 years, asymptomatic anti-HCV seroconversion occurred in 33 people (3.1/1,000 person-years [PY]), including 28 (6.8/1,000 PY) in the Nile Delta village (AES), where prevalence was 24% and 5 (0.8/1,000 PY) in the Upper Egypt village (baseline prevalence of 9%). The strongest predictor of incident HCV was having an anti-HCV–positive family member. Among those that did, incidence was 5.8/1,000 PY, compared (P < .001) with 1.0/1,000 PY; 27 of 33 incident cases had an anti-HCV–positive family member. Parenteral exposures increased the risk of HCV but were not statistically significant; 67% of seroconverters were younger than 20 years of age, and the highest incidence rate (14.1/1,000 PY) was in children younger than 10 who were living in AES households with an anti-HCV–positive parent. In conclusion, young children would especially benefit from measures reducing exposures or preventing infection with HCV. (HEPATOLOGY 2005.)