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Kidney Int. 1995 Mar;47(3):911-7.

High prevalence of a rare hepatitis C virus in patients treated in the same hemodialysis unit: evidence for nosocomial transmission of HCV.

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Istituto di Medicina Interna e Fisiopatologia Medica, Università di Milano, Italy.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of hepatitis among patients treated with maintenance hemodialysis. Blood transfusion appears to be the primary risk factor, but nosocomial transmission of HCV in the dialytic environment has been hypothesized. We addressed this issue by analyzing the individual variation of genomic sequences of HCV in 28 patients on chronic hemodialysis (HD) from the same department and 25 environmentally unrelated patients with HCV-related liver disease. Genome variations of HCV were studied by single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis of polymerase chain reaction products obtained from the 5'-untranslated region of the viral genome and by sequence analysis. Six different SSCP patterns were identified in HD patients versus 16 in control patients. Among HD patients the three more frequent SSCP patterns accounted for 85% of observations, while in the control group each pattern was found in 4 to 12% of patients. The ability of SSCP to discriminate sequence variation was proven by sequence analysis which confirmed identity/diversity of sequences selected by SSCP. Moreover, sequence analysis permitted a recognition of the most frequent genome observed in HD patients as a type 4 HCV, which is considered to be rare in the Italian population. The relative homogeneity of HCV variants in HD patients treated in the same HD and the high prevalence in this unit of a rare viral variant support the possibility of a nosocomial transmission of HCV in the dialytic environment.

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