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Keywords:

  • child;
  • cirrhosis;
  • Egyptian;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • hepatitis C virus;
  • transfusion

Summary.  The outcome of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection acquired in childhood is uncertain because of the diversity of the epidemiological and clinical features of infection and disease. The aim of this study was to determine the outcome of HCV infection in 105 Egyptian children who tested positive for HCV antibody (anti-HCV). The data of 105 anti-HCV-positive children presenting to the Pediatric Hepatology Unit, Cairo University Children's Hospital, between 1995 and 2002, were retrospectively analysed for risk factors. Seventy-four children with available polymerase chain reaction results were further analysed clinically, serologically and histologically. The age range was 1.3–22 years, with a mean of 11.2 ± 4.9 years. History of blood transfusion was found in 81 children (77%). HCV RNA was detected in 58.1% of 74 children. Persistently elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels were present in 40 patients (54.1%). Hepatitis B virus markers (HBsAg and/or anti-HBc) were detected in 18 patients (24.3%). Twenty-six of the 43 HCV RNA-positive children underwent a diagnostic liver biopsy that showed chronic hepatitis in 19 patients (73.1%), cirrhosis in one case only (3.8%), and normal biopsy findings in seven children (26.9%). Blood transfusion remains a major risk of HCV transmission among Egyptian children. HCV infection is not always benign in the childhood period. ALT levels remain elevated in half of the children and histological abnormalities are detected in three quarters of HCV RNA-positive cases.