Prospective virological follow-up of hepatitis C infection in a haemodialysis unit

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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is of major concern in the management of patients on maintenance haemodialysis. Many studies have reported a high prevalence of HCV infection in dialysis centres. The objective of our study was first, to perform a prospective follow-up of the evolution of HCV infection in a haemodialysis centre, and second, to assess the rate of viral clearance in patients on dialysis. For this, genotypes, HCV antibodies (anti-HCV) and HCV RNA were evaluated initially and 9 months later. HCV RNA quantification was also performed. Of 136 patients, 62 (45.6%) were anti-HCV positive by third-generation enzyme immunoassay (EIA 3) in the first survey and 64 of 136(47.1%) were anti-HCV positive by EIA 3 in the second survey. The rate of new HCV infection, estimated from the two seroconversions between the surveys, was 1.9% per year. One of the two patients was initially HCV RNA positive, with a titre of 0.6 × 106 eq ml-1. The viral load measured in the dialysis patients was low and does not seem to be influenced by dialysis. No significant difference was observed in viral load between the two periods nor were there any gender-related differences in viral load. In conclusion, detection of antibodies to HCV, together with HCV RNA, seems to be relevant in haemodialysis patients, but this strategy is not suitable for use in all haemodialysis centres because of its high cost.

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