Hepatitis C infection common in young Egyptians with thalassemia
MedWire News: Hepatitis C infection remains a major issue for young Egyptians with thalassemia who have undergone many blood transfusions, researchers report.
Their study showed that just over half these individuals carried antibodies to the hepatitis C virus (HCV), although prevalence had decreased since the 1990s.
Gamila El-Saeed (National Research Center, Cairo, Egypt) and colleagues say there has also been a dramatic decrease in the prevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection among these patients, and that HIV infection is no longer an issue.
But they add: "HCV infection still represents a major health problem for our thalassemia patients, which requires more attention and efforts to challenge."
The team studied the prevalence of the three major transfusion-transmitted infections in patients aged 2 to 27 years registered at a pediatric hematology clinic in Cairo, who had received more than 20 blood transfusions.
Of the 174 young people, who had a mean age of 11.26 years, 162 had thalassemia major and 12 thalassemia intermedia.
The results, published in the journal Blood Coagulation and Fibrinolysis, showed that none of the participants were positive for HBV surface antigen or HIV antibodies.
However, 90 patients were positive for HCV antibodies, although the researchers note this represents a decrease to 51.7% of those studied compared with an earlier study that identified the infection in more than 70% in 1995.
Among 75 patients with HCV antibodies in whom HCV-RNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays were carried out, 56 (74.3%) tested positive.
HCV antibody positivity was significantly associated with the age of the patient, serum ferritin, and liver transaminase levels.
Being positive for HCV-RNA using PCR was significantly related to age and serum ferritin levels, and serum ferritin showed a significant positive correlation with liver transaminases.
The researchers note there has been a dramatic decrease in the prevalence of HBV infection over the past decade thanks to mass compulsory vaccination and blood screening and that HIV infection does not represent a problem due to the very low prevalence in the Egyptian population.
However, they add:"Our multitransfused patients are still at risk of acquiring the infection mainly due to the large reservoir of HCV infection in the community, exposure to subtypes that could not be detected by current techniques and blood donors who could be recently infected with negative serological results (window period)."
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By Anita Wilkinson