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J Clin Gastroenterol. 1997 Jan;24(1):30-3.

Very high prevalence of hepatitis B and C in Bukharian Jewish immigrants to Israel.

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Department of Family Medicine, Hadassah University Hospital, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel.


In Israel, the reported prevalence of hepatitis-C virus (HCV) infection among blood donors is 0.44%. As we found a high prevalence of chronic hepatitis-B virus (HBV) and HCV infection in Jewish immigrants from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan (Bukharian Jews) among our general patient population, we determined the prevalence of HBV and HCV infection among "healthy" Bukharian Jewish immigrants by screening for HBV and HCV markers and risk factors in a population of Bukharian Jews in north Jerusalem. A total of 27 (26.5%) of 102 patients were anti-HCV positive (by ELISA and confirmation tests). The HCV positive patients were older and had a higher rate of liver enzyme abnormalities than were the HCV-negative patients (56.5 +/- 2.3 versus 47.6 +/- 1.8, p = 0.003; and 14 of 27 versus 7 of 75, p < 0.01, respectively). HCV-positive patients with liver enzyme abnormalities were younger than HCV-positive patients without liver enzyme abnormalities (52.5 +/- 3.0 versus 62.8 +/- 2.8, p = 0.02). Sixteen patients (15.7%) were hepatitis-B surface antigen (HBsAg) carriers, and only two of these HBsAg carriers had liver enzyme abnormalities. None of the HCV-positive patients were HBsAg carriers (0 of 27 among HCV-positive patients versus 16 of 75 among HCV-negative patients, p = 0.0055). Past infection with HBV was found in 67 examinees (66%) (45 of 75 HCV-negative patients and 22 of 27 HCV-positive patients, p = 0.058). However, similar proportions of patients from both groups had past and present exposure to HBV [61 (81.3%) of 75 among HCV-negative patients versus 22 (81.5%) of 27 among HCV-positive patients]. Only 14 patients (13.7%) had no exposure to either HCV or HBV. Possible risk factors were use of nondisposable needles during mass vaccination in the U.S.S.R. or possible intrafamilial spread. The study concluded that immigrant Jews from former Asiatic U.S.S.R. republics have the highest rate of HCV positivity ever reported, and many of them have past and present HBV infection. Measures to prevent intrafamilial transmission of both viruses should be instituted.

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