Ethnic differences in the prevalence of anti-hepatitis C antibodies and hepatitis B surface antigen in Israeli blood donors by age, sex, country of birth and origin


Occupational Health Institute, PO Box 3. Raanana 43100, Israel.


Summary. The presence of anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibodies frequently indicates both persistent infection and infectivity. Consequently, blood donors found to be anti-HCV positive, are excluded from the donor pool. The aim of this study was to compare age, sex and ethnic differences in the prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies with that of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) among immigrant and Israeli-born blood donors. Anti-HCV antibodies were assayed by a second-generation enzyme-immunoassay (EIA) and HBsAg by a standard EIA in a sample of 136 977 blood donors in Israel during 1992. The overall age-adjusted prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies was 0.66% in men and 0.55% in women, and for HBsAg, 0.85% and 0.44%, respectively. There was a significant increase in the prevalence of anti-HCV antibody with age, and significant differences by country of birth, with the highest prevalence found among those born in the former USSR and eastern Europe. This contrasted with the findings for the prevalence of HBsAg, where the highest rates were among those born in northern Africa. Among Israeli-born donors, differences in the prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies by parental country of origin were minimal and much less than for HBsAg. Hence the prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies in Israel is strongly associated with age and country of birth but not with country of origin. There is little evidence of substantial vertical or intra familial transmission of HCV infection in Israel.