• anti-HCV;
  • risk factors;
  • relatives of hemodialysis patients;
  • inter-spousal


The prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in chronic hemodialysis patients ranges from 20 to 50% and these patients may serve as a reservoir of infection for their household contacts. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of anti-HCV in hemodialysis patients and their families, and to evaluate possible routes of infection. One hundred eighty-six family members of 84 hemodialysis patients and 529 healthy adults were enrolled. The family members consisted of 50 spouses, 96 children, 11 parents, 29 siblings, and other relatives living together with the patients. Serum samples were collected for testing anti-HCV. Exposure to risk factors was obtained by a questionnaire and an interview. The results showed that prevalence of anti-HCV in hemodialysis patients was 44%, whereas in family members it was 5.4%, not significantly different from that of age-matched healthy adults (standardized morbidity rate = 1.51, P = 0.390). The anti-HCV rate in family members tended to increase with age, and a spouse of an infected hemodialysis patient had a higher risk of HCV infection than other family members (15% vs. 2.6%, odds ratio 6.6, P = 0.058). Except for the age factor, no difference was found between seropositive and se-ronegative family members with respect to risk factors such as blood transfusion, surgery, frequent injections, dental procedures, or acupuncture. It was concluded that, although the anti-HCV positivity of hemodialysis patients is high, the risk of HCV infection for their family members is not higher than that of the general population. Among family members, spouses of seropositive hemodialysis patients have the highest risk of HCV infection. These data imply that long-term intimate contact between spouses plays a key role in the intrafamilial transmission of HCV. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, inc.