High prevalence of chronic hepatitis B and C virus infection in a population of a German metropolitan area: a prospective survey including 10 215 patients of an interdisciplinary emergency unit

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Abstract

Purpose

The prevalence of chronic hepatitis B virus- and hepatitis C virus-infections in the general German population has been estimated to be 0.6–0.7 and 0.3–0.4%, respectively. The population of Frankfurt/Main is multicultural and marked by different risks of chronic viral hepatitis. The aim of this prospective study was to define epidemiologic data for hepatitis B and C from consecutive patients of an interdisciplinary emergency unit in Frankfurt.

Patients and methods

Over a period of 12 months, 10 215 patients of an interdisciplinary emergency unit in Frankfurt/Main were screened for hepatitis B surface-antigen (HBsAg) and hepatitis C virus-antibodies (HCV-Ab). In case of positive HBsAg or HCV-Ab, a quantitative PCR analysis of virus was carried out.

Results

The prevalence of HBsAg and HCV-Ab in the study population was 1.32% (n=135; group 1) and 2.70% (n=276; group 2), respectively, with a sex ratio close to 1. Quantitative PCR tests of virus load were performed in 72.59% (group 1) and in 82.61% (group 2), with confirmed viremia in 54.08% (group 1) and 41.67% (group 2), and correlated to elevated liver enzymes in 49.05% (group 1) and in 75.78% (group 2) of the cases. The ethnic distribution was 87.09% White (n=8897; group A) versus 12.90% other ethnic groups (n=1318; group B), with a prevalence of HBsAg-positive and HCV-Ab-positive cases of 1.08 and 2.76% (group A) and 2.96 and 2.28% (group B).

Conclusion

The results show that in multicultural areas, the prevalence of chronic viral hepatitis is increased. Because of the potential of progressive liver damage in viral hepatitis, field screening in specific populations at high risk for hepatitis should be performed.

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