Transmission of hepatitis C virus infection in hemodialysis: Current concepts

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A variety of epidemiological data provides evidence for the occurrence of nosocomial transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection to hemodialysis (HD) patients. The most important factor implicated in HCV transmission between patients treated in the same dialysis unit is cross-contamination from supplies and surfaces as a result of failure of staff to follow infection control procedures. Parts of the HCV genome are highly variable and lend themselves to fingerprinting of each isolate using nucleic acid testing (NAT) and sequencing. This approach has permitted investigation of possible transmission routes within HD units. A systematic review of molecular virology papers revealed transmission of HCV via internal fluid pathways of the dialysis machines in a minority of reports only. Dialyzer reuse was not identified as a risk factor for HCV acquisition in multicenter databases. No randomized controlled trials exist on the impact of isolation on the risk of transmission of HCV to hemodialysis patients. A Belgian prospective multicenter study showed a reduction from 1.4% to 0% in the annual incidence of seroconversion for HCV without any isolation measures, by implementation of strict infection control procedures designed to prevent transmission of blood-borne pathogens, including HCV. However, an isolation policy for HCV-infected dialysis patients should be considered in dialysis units where nosocomial transmission of HCV persists despite reinforcement and audit of hygienic precautions for hemodialysis. Routine audit precautions (general and for dialysis machines) are recommended on a regular basis within HD units. (Int J Artif Organs 2008; 31: 1004–16)

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