Seroprevalence of the Antibody to Hepatitis C in Select Groups in the Punjab Region of Pakistan

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Abstract

Goals

Hepatitis C is on the rise in clinics in Pakistan. To estimate the occurrence of hepatitis C in the region and to create awareness about the disease in the general public, two studies were conducted in Punjab, Pakistan. Before this, no such effort has been made in Pakistan.

Background

Two studies were held in Lahore and Gujranwala of Punjab, Pakistan. These studies were advertised throughout the city, and people who participated were screened for anti–hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV)–positive serology at a concession rate and were surveyed through a questionnaire. In Lahore, there were 488 participants (mean age, 28 years; male-to-female ratio, 1.4 to 1). In Gujranwala, there were 1,922 participants (mean age, 27 years; male-to-female ratio, 1.5 to 1). The patients’ blood was tested using an immuno-chromatography to identify the antibody to hepatitis C using Instatest HCV, with very high sensitivity.

Results

In Lahore, the occurrence of anti-HCV–positive serology was 15.9%. In Gujranwala, the occurrence of anti-HCV–positive serology was 23.8%. In Lahore, the occurrence was 1.2% in participants 20 years of age and younger and was 23.5% in those who were more than 20 years of age. In Gujranwala, the occurrence of anti-HCV–positive serology was 5.4% in participants 20 years of age and younger and was 34% in those who were more than 20 years of age.

Conclusion

It can be seen that in those younger than 20 years of age, the occurrence of hepatitis C is almost at par with the rest of the world (0.5–2%). However, those more than 20 years of age had a very high occurrence, as high as 50% in certain age groups. The time-frame of contraction of the HCV for those individuals more than 20 years of age (approximately 20 to 35 years ago) corresponds with that of the smallpox eradication program conducted in Pakistan from 1964 to 1982. This may indicate the likelihood of a relationship between the high rate of hepatitis C and the administration of the smallpox vaccine in Pakistan.

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