Tag Archives: HCV

Hepatitis C – HVC – Epidemiology

Epidemiology

It is estimated that Hepatitis C has infected nearly 200 million people worldwide, and infects 3-4 million more people per year. There are about 35,000 to 185,000 new cases a year in the United States. It is currently a leading cause of cirrhosis, a common cause of hepatocellular carcinoma, and as a result of these conditions it is the leading reason for liver transplantation in the United States. Co-infection with HIV is common and rates among HIV positive populations are higher. 10,000-20,000 deaths a year in the United States are from HCV; expectations are that this mortality rate will increase, as those who were infected by transfusion before HCV testing become apparent. A survey conducted in California showed prevalence of up to 34% among prison inmates;[34] 82% of subjects diagnosed with Hepatitis C have previously been in jail,[35] and transmission while in prison is well described.

Prevalence is higher in some countries in Africa and Asia. Egypt has the highest seroprevalence for HCV, up to 20% in some areas. There is a hypothesis that the high prevalence is linked to a now-discontinued mass-Treatment campaign for schistosomiasis, which is endemic in that country. Regardless of how the epidemic started, a high rate of HCV transmission continues in Egypt, both iatrogenically and within the community and household.

Co-infection with HIV

Approximately 350,000, or 35% of patients in the USA infected with HIV are also infected with the Hepatitis C virus, mainly because both viruses are blood-borne and present in similar populations. In other countries co-infection is less common, and this is possibly related to differing drug policies. HCV is the leading cause of chronic liver disease in the USA. It has been demonstrated in clinical studies that HIV infection causes a more rapid progression of chronic Hepatitis C to cirrhosis and liver failure. This is not to say Treatment is not an option for those living with co-infection.

Hepatitis C – HCV- Diagnosis

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of “Hepatitis C” is rarely made during the acute phase of the disease because the majority of people infected experience no symptoms during this phase of the disease. Those who do experience acute phase symptoms are rarely ill enough to seek medical attention. The diagnosis of chronic phase Hepatitis C is also challenging due to the absence or lack of specificity of symptoms until advanced liver disease develops, which may not occur until decades into the disease.

Chronic Hepatitis C may be suspected on the basis of the medical history (particularly if there is any history of IV drug abuse or inhaled substance usage such as cocaine), a history of piercings or tattoos, unexplained symptoms, or abnormal liver enzymes or liver function tests found during routine blood testing. Occasionally, Hepatitis C is diagnosed as a result of targeted screening such as blood donation (blood donors are screened for numerous blood-borne diseases including Hepatitis C) or contact tracing.

Hepatitis C testing begins with serological blood tests used to detect antibodies to HCV. Anti-HCV antibodies can be detected in 80% of patients within 15 weeks after exposure, in >90% within 5 months after exposure, and in >97% by 6 months after exposure. Overall, HCV antibody tests have a strong positive predictive value for exposure to the Hepatitis C virus, but may miss patients who have not yet developed antibodies (seroconversion), or have an insufficient level of antibodies to detect. Rarely, people infected with HCV never develop antibodies to the virus and therefore, never test positive using HCV antibody screening. Because of this possibility, RNA testing (see nucleic acid testing methods below) should be considered when antibody testing is negative but suspicion of Hepatitis C is high (e.g. because of elevated transaminases in someone with risk factors for Hepatitis C).

Anti-HCV antibodies indicate exposure to the virus, but cannot determine if ongoing infection is present. All persons with positive anti-HCV antibody tests must undergo additional testing for the presence of the Hepatitis C virus itself to determine whether current infection is present. The presence of the virus is tested for using molecular nucleic acid testing methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), transcription mediated amplification (TMA), or branched DNA (b-DNA). All HCV nucleic acid molecular tests have the capacity to detect not only whether the virus is present, but also to measure the amount of virus present in the blood (the HCV viral load). The HCV viral load is an important factor in determining the probability of response to interferon-based therapy, but does not indicate disease severity nor the likelihood of disease progression.

In people with confirmed HCV infection, genotype testing is generally recommended. HCV genotype testing is used to determine the required length and potential response to interferon-based therapy.

Hepatitis C – HCV – Virology

Virology

The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a small (50 nm in size), enveloped, single-stranded, positive sense RNA virus. It is the only known member of the hepacivirus genus in the family Flaviviridae. There are six major genotypes of the Hepatitis C virus, which are indicated numerically (e.g., genotype 1, genotype 2, etc.).

The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact. In developed countries, it is estimated that 90% of persons with chronic HCV infection were infected through transfusion of unscreened blood or blood products or via injecting drug use or sexual exposure. In developing countries, the primary sources of HCV infection are unsterilized injection equipment and infusion of inadequately screened blood and blood products. There has not been a documented transfusion-related case of Hepatitis C in the United States for over a decade as the blood supply is vigorously screened with both EIA and PCR technologies.

Symptoms Hepatitis C – HCV – Hepatitis C Treatment

Symptoms Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting the liver, caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection is often asymptomatic, but once established, chronic infection can progress to scarring of the liver (fibrosis), and advanced scarring (cirrhosis) which is generally apparent after many years. In some cases, those with cirrhosis will go on to develop liver failure or other complications of cirrhosis, including liver cancer.

The Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread by blood-to-blood contact. Most people have few, if any symptoms after the initial infection, yet the virus persists in the liver in about 85% of those infected. Persistent infection can be treated with medication, peginterferon and ribavirin being the standard-of-care therapy. Only 51% are cured overall. Those who develop cirrhosis or liver cancer may require a liver transplant, and the virus universally recurs after transplantation.

An estimated 270-300 million people worldwide are infected with Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a strictly human disease. It cannot be contracted from or given to any animal. Chimpanzees can be infected with the virus in the laboratory, but do not develop the disease, which has made research more difficult. No vaccine against Hepatitis C is available. The existence of Hepatitis C (originally “non-A non-B hepatitis“) was postulated in the 1970s and proved conclusively in 1989. It is one of five known hepatitis viruses: A, B, C, D, and E.