Background: The hepatitis C pandemic has been systematically studied and characterized in North America and Europe, but this important public health problem has not received equivalent attention in other regions.
Aim: The objective of this systematic review was to characterize hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemiology in selected countries of Asia, Australia and Egypt, i.e. in a geographical area inhabited by over 40% of the global population.
Methodology: Data references were identified through indexed journals and non-indexed sources. In this work, 7770 articles were reviewed and 690 were selected based on their relevance.
Results: We estimated that 49.3–64.0 million adults in Asia, Australia and Egypt are anti-HCV positive. China alone has more HCV infections than all of Europe or the Americas. While most countries had prevalence rates from 1 to 2% we documented several with relatively high prevalence rates, including Egypt (15%), Pakistan (4.7%) and Taiwan (4.4%). Nosocomial infection, blood transfusion (before screening) and injection drug use were identified as common risk factors in the region. Genotype 1 was common in Australia, China, Taiwan and other countries in North Asia, while genotype 6 was found in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. In India and Pakistan genotype 3 was predominant, while genotype 4 was found in Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
Conclusion: We recommend implementation of surveillance systems to guide effective public health policy that may lead to the eventual curtailment of the spread of this pandemic infection.