This report describes a cross-sectional survey of the prevalence of antibodies to hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) in a rural Egyptian community in the Nile Delta. One half of the village households were systematically selected and examined by questionnaire and testing sera for anti-HCV and HCV RNA. Blood samples were obtained from 3,888 (75.4%) of 5,156 residents ≥ 5 years of age; an additional 111 samples were obtained from children younger than 5 years. Overall, 973 (24.3%) of 3,999 residents were anti-HCV-positive, and the age- and gender-adjusted seroprevalence was 23.7%. Anti-HCV prevalence increased sharply with age, from 9.3% in those 20 years of age and younger to > 50% in those older than 35 years. Currently or previously married individuals were more likely to be seropositive than those never married, controlling for age (Mantel-Haenszel risk ratio = 1.8; 95% CI: 1.3, 2.6). Of the 905 anti-HCV-positive samples tested, 65% were also positive for HCV RNA. Active schistosomal infection was not associated with anti-HCV status; however, history of antischistosomal injection therapy (reported by 19% of anti-HCV positives) was a risk for anti-HCV (age-adjusted risk ratio = 1.3; 95% CI: 1.2, 1.5). This study, the largest community-based survey to date, supports earlier reports of high levels of anti-HCV among adults in rural areas of Egypt, although many of those who are seropositive will not have active liver disease. The large reservoir of HCV infection in the community provides an opportunity to investigate risk factors for transmission, the natural history of infection and effectiveness of preventive methodologies, and raises concern about the prospect of an increasing incidence of chronic liver disease in the coming decades.
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