• HCV;
  • epidemiology;
  • Italy

Objective: To evaluate the prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies using subjects hospitalized in surgical departments and medical wards, and out-patients; secondly, to assess the evidence for developing chronic hepatitis in subjects positive for anti-HCV when compared with those with hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Methods: 21888 serum samples from 18380 subjects were investigated for anti-HCV antibodies using second and third generation immunoenzymatic assays. Some of these subjects were hospitalized patients and some were out-patients.

Results: The study showed a 12.8% overall anti-HCV prevalence rate with significant differences between out-patients (16.5%) or subjects hospitalised in medical wards (16%) and in-patients in surgical departments (7.7%). The third group included asymptomatic subjects over twenty years old whose sera were tested for anti-HCV antibodies as part of routine preoperation screening and not on clinical suspicion. Hence, this group, too, can be considered as representative of the general population, and the prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies observed among them as the prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies in the general population in a northern Italian area. The data, following a confirmatory test (RIBA) on positive samples, were analysed for their positivity to different antigens (the simultaneous presence of antibodies to the C-100, C-33 and C-22 antigens), as an index of developing chronic viral activity. This was observed in 63.4% of positive patients from surgical departments.

Conclusions: There is a large proportion of the asymptomatic population which could be chronically infected.