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Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2007 Sep;22(9):2640-4. Epub 2007 May 29.

Travel-associated acquisition of hepatitis C virus infection in patients receiving haemodialysis.

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  • 1Department of Virology, Royal Free Hospital and Royal Free & University College Medical School, Rowland Hill Street, London NW3 2PF, UK.



It has been proposed that hepatitis C virus (HCV)-infected patients with end-stage renal disease undergoing maintenance haemodialysis may lack HCV antibody (anti-HCV) despite chronic HCV viraemia. This carries important implications for the design of surveillance policies.


To characterize the prevalence of antibody-negative/RNA-positive HCV infection, patients attending seven haemodialysis units underwent anti-HCV testing using a third-generation assay and HCV RNA testing using real-time PCR.


At screening, anti-HCV prevalence was 12/360 (3.3%; 95% CI 1.7-5.8%); 7/12 (58.3%) anti-HCV positive samples were HCV RNA positive. Among anti-HCV-negative samples, 2/348 (0.6%; 95% CI 0.2-2.1%) tested HCV RNA positive (genotype 1a). Retrospective testing of stored sera dated the infections to a period of holiday in the Indian subcontinent. The two infections were unrelated by HCV-NS5B sequencing. Only one of the two newly infected persons showed raised transaminases. Both developed anti-HCV within 8-13 weeks of follow-up. Prospective surveillance of travellers to resource-limited countries returning to the units showed a HCV incidence of 4/153 travel episodes (2.6%; 95% CI 0.7-6.6%) among 131 persons (3.1%; 95% CI 0.8-7.6%).


Among haemodialysis patients in the United Kingdom, antibody-negative/RNA-positive HCV status is associated with newly acquired infection, rather than lack of antibody responses in chronic HCV infection. There is a significant risk of HCV infection associated with travel to resource-limited countries. Given that transaminase levels may be normal, HCV RNA testing is recommended in patients re-entering a dialysis unit following haemodialysis in settings where suboptimal infection control policies pose a risk of exposure to blood-borne viruses.

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