Hepatitis C virus antibodies in asymptomatic chronic carriers of hepatitis B surface antigen.

Henrique Barros, H. Pessegueiro Miranda, F. Silvestre


The objectives of the study were to evaluate the prevalence, incidence and clinical significance of antibodies to hepatitis C virus in HBsAg chronic carriers. The evaluation of stored sera was combined with the follow up of a cohort of cases observed in a referral-based university hospital. A total of 183 HBsAg asymptomatic chronic carriers were identified during routine screening and followed for a mean period of 3.8 years. Stored sera and sera obtained during follow-up were tested for anti-HCV using ELISA. Second-generation RIBA (Ortho) was used as a possible confirmatory test. Demographic data and risk factors were assessed using a standard questionnaire. The prevalence of HCV infection in HBsAg chronic carriers was 2.7% (95% Cl: 1.2%-63%), higher in males than females (3.1% vs 1.8%, p = 0.52) and also higher than that found in voluntary blood donors from the same region. Only 3 out of 5 ELISA-positive cases were RIBA-positive. Patients positive for both types of virus more frequently admitted drug abusers. The presence of anti-HCV was not significantly related to the histological severity. During follow-up no new cases of infection were found. Conclusions: The prevalence of HCV infection in asymptomatic chronic carriers is higher than in blood donors but lower than previously reported for other populations of chronic hepatitis B cases. HCV infection was not found responsible for the frequency or the type of lesions observed in these HBsAg chronic carriers.

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