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Am J Kidney Dis. 2003 Sep;42(3):546-50.

Contamination by hepatitis B and C viruses in the dialysis setting.

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  • 1National Institute for Infectious Diseases, Lazzaro Spallanzani, Rome, Italy.



Hepatitis virus infections continue to be a major concern in the dialysis setting. We studied levels of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA contamination in dialysis units to better define the role of the dialysis environment and machines in the nosocomial transmission of hepatitis viruses.


Possible contamination by hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HCV was studied by collecting environmental samples in 3 dialysis units located in Rome, Italy. Samples and controls were tested for HBsAg by a microparticle enzyme immunoassay, and for HCV RNA, by qualitative transcription-mediated amplification assay.


HCV RNA and HBsAg were detected in 1 of 64 (1.6%) and 1 of 64 samples (1.6%), respectively. The only HCV RNA-positive sample was found in 1 dialysis unit on the external surface of the dialysate (inlet-outlet) connector of a dialysis machine used for HCV-negative patients. The only HBsAg-positive sample was found in another dialysis unit on the internal surface of the blood pressure monitor cuff of a dialysis bed dedicated for HBsAg-positive patients.


A segregation policy for HBsAg-positive patients is a necessary measure despite its high cost-effectiveness; we found HBsAg contamination in the segregated HBV-infected room. Conversely, the finding of HCV RNA contamination on a dialysis machine not dedicated to HCV-positive patients suggests that isolation of HCV-infected dialysis patients and use of dedicated machines are unjustified. Major attention should be given to strict adherence to infection control measures in the dialysis setting.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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