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Keywords:

  • acute infection;
  • hepatitis C;
  • natural history;
  • observational studies;
  • systematic review;
  • viral clearance

Summary.  A large number of studies have reported on spontaneous viral clearance rates in acute hepatitis C infection, however most have been small, and reported rates have varied quite widely. To improve the precision of the estimated rate of spontaneous viral clearance, a systematic review was conducted of longitudinal studies. Factors associated with viral clearance were also examined. Inclusion criteria for studies were: longitudinal assessment from time of acute hepatitis C; hepatitis C virus RNA analysis as determinant of viral clearance; untreated for acute hepatitis C. Information on study population, and factors that may influence viral clearance were extracted from each study. Viral clearance was defined among individuals with at least 6 months follow-up following acute hepatitis C. The number of subjects with viral clearance was expressed as a proportion for each study and a weighted mean for proportion was calculated. A total of 31 studies were examined. Study populations included nine studies of post-transfusion hepatitis, 19 of acute clinical hepatitis, and three of sero-incident cases. In total, data was available for 675 subjects and the mean study population was 22 (range 4–67). The proportion with viral clearance ranged from 0.0 to 0.8, with a weighted mean of 0.26 (95% CI 0.22–0.29). Factors associated with viral clearance were female gender and acute clinical hepatitis C study population. Further studies are required to more clearly define predictors of clearance and guide therapeutic intervention strategies.