Prevalence of transfusion-acquired hepatitis C in an Australian bleeding disorders population

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Summary

In Australia prior to 1992, many patients with bleeding disorders were exposed to hepatitis C through blood products. However, the incidence, complications and response to treatment of chronic hepatitis C (CHC) in this population are poorly characterized. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of CHC and response to treatment in an Australian bleeding disorders population. Demographic data, virological data and liver disease status from these 700 patients with inherited bleeding disorders were analysed. Of these 700 patients, 424 (61%) had been tested for CHC infection and 219 (52%) were hepatitis C antibody positive, with the prevalence approaching 100% in patients with severe bleeding disorders. Of 219 patients, 73 (33%) had received treatment for their infection with a response rate of 33/73 (45%) across all genotypes. Of 219 patients, 34 (16%) had spontaneous viral clearance. When measured with transient elastography, 44/98 (45%) patients with CHC had significant liver fibrosis and 15/98 (15%) had liver cirrhosis. Of 130 patients, 38 (29%) with CHC infection had no evidence of follow-up with an appropriate clinician in the past 2 years. This study demonstrates that testing for CHC in this population is incomplete and treatment rates are low. Given the substantial morbidity and mortality associated with CHC and new therapeutic options becoming available, it seems important to reengage patients to diagnose, offer treatment and monitor this infection.

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