Familial infection by the hepatitis C virus.

H P Miranda, P Batista, F Oliveira, H Barros


The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of the antibody to hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the relatives of cases of asymptomatic chronic hepatitis C infection, detected during routine blood donation, and determine risk factors for the presence of the infection in the family setting. Two hundred and eighty-five relatives (spouses, offspring, siblings and parents) of 87 index cases were studied. Anti-HCV was detected using second generation ELISA and RIBA tests. The overall prevalence of anti-HCV in the studied population was 6.7%, higher in spouses (11.7%) and lower in the offspring (2.1%). The presence of HCV RNA was detected in 12 of 45 index cases, using nested PCR. No increased risk of infection was found in the relatives of cases with HCV-RNA positivity. Using a logistic regression model, four factors were identified as significantly associated with an increased risk of hepatitis C in the relatives: the age of the index case, and, as characteristics of the relatives, male gender, past or ongoing hepatitis B virus infection, and being a spouse of an index case.

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