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Abstract

From August 1978 until March 1979, 14 batches of anti-D immune globulin contaminated with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1b (20,000-480,000 copies/dose) from a single erythrocyte donor had been administered for prophylaxis of rhesus isoimmunization throughout East Germany. All 2,867 women involved had been recalled after January 12, 1979 for repeated screening of alanine transaminase (ALT). They were prospectively followed in regional centers. We have reexamined a cohort of 1,018 women (median age 24, range 16-38 years at infection) on follow-up for 20 years in 9 representative centers. Within 6 months after anti-D administration, 10% of these women had no evidence of disease and 90% had acute hepatitis C (n = 917) including 49% with symptomatic and 22% with icteric course. After 20 years, 85% of the 917 affected women still tested positive for HCV antibodies (among them 3% responded to interferon treatment) and 55% were positive for HCV RNA (among them 7% were nonresponders to interferon and 3% were apparent HCV carriers). Only 4 (0.4%) had overt cirrhosis. Two (0.2%) died of superinfected fulminant hepatitis B or alcoholism and cirrhosis, respectively. Histology obtained in 44% of the viremic women showed hepatitis of minimal to moderate grade in 96%, portal fibrosis in 47%, and septal fibrosis in 3% of the cases. In conclusion, formerly healthy young women, without hepatic comorbidity, may clear HCV (1b) infection in half of the cases or develop mild chronic hepatitis C with low risk of progression to cirrhosis within 20 years.