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J Infect Dis. 2007 Nov 15;196(10):1474-82. Epub 2007 Oct 31.

Acute hepatitis C in a contemporary US cohort: modes of acquisition and factors influencing viral clearance.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Washington, 325 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104, USA.



Acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is often asymptomatic; thus, its epidemiology and natural history are difficult to define.


Acute HCV infection was identified on the basis of HCV seroconversion within 1 year (n=45), new anti-HCV seropositivity with clinical acute hepatitis (n=21), or HCV strain sequencing after an iatrogenic exposure (n=1). Risk factors were assessed with a baseline questionnaire, and participants were followed up prospectively with serial measurement of viral loads.


Of 67 persons with acute HCV infection, most were asymptomatic (64%) and injection drug users (66%). Thirteen had an unknown mode of transmission; of these, 11 reported high-risk sexual behavior. Ten acquired acute HCV infection within 3 months of an iatrogenic exposure; 3 had confirmed iatrogenic infection, and 4 had no other risk factors identified. The spontaneous viral clearance rate after 6 months of infection was 18% (95% confidence interval, 11%-31%). The rate of viral clearance varied significantly by sex (34% vs. 3% for women vs. men; P<.001).


High-risk sexual or iatrogenic exposures may be important contemporary risk factors for HCV infection. The spontaneous viral clearance rate (18%) in this contemporary study was similar to that reported for past studies of transfusion-associated HCV infection. Women were more likely to clear acute HCV infection than men.

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