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Minerva Medica 2021 Apr 29

DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4806.21.07280-3


language: English

Changing epidemiology of hepatitis C in Italy: a population-based survey in a historically high endemic area

Enea SPADA 1 , Cinzia MARCANTONIO 1, Maria Fenicia VESCIO 1, Nadia MARASCIO 2, Umbertina VILLANO 1, Giulio PISANI 3, Elena TRITARELLI 1, Roberto BRUNI 1, Giorgio S. BARRECA 2, Carlo TORTI 4, Giovanni MATERA 2, Maria Carla LIBERTO 2, Alfredo FOCÀ 2, Patrizio PEZZOTTI 1, Anna R. CICCAGLIONE 1, on behalf of the Viral Hepatitis ISS-UNICZ study group

1 Department of Infectious Diseases, National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy; 2 Department of Health Sciences, Magna Graecia University, Catanzaro, Italy; 3 National Centre for the Control and Evaluation of Medicines, National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy; 4 Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, Magna Graecia University, Catanzaro, Italy


BACKGROUND: General population data on hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence in Italy come mostly from studies conducted in small towns. The highest rates have consistently been found in southern regions, especially in Calabria. Herein, we aimed to determine HCV prevalence, awareness and risk factors in the general population of Catanzaro, the Calabria capital city.
METHODS: A stratified probability-based random sample of adult population was drawn from the Census. Anti-HCV and HCV-RNA were assayed. Data on sociodemographycs, risk factors and awareness of infection status were also collected. Crude and age and sex directly standardized rates (DSR), using Catanzaro’s general population as standard, were calculated. Log binomial regressions with sampling weights was used to identify independent predictors of infection.
RESULTS: The final study population consisted of 1003 people. Of them 27 (2.69%; 95% confidence interval, [CI] 1.78-3.89) (DSR, 2.34%; 95% CI, 1.37-3.30) and 9 (0.9%; 95%CI, 0.41-1.70) (DSR 0.79%; 95% CI, 0.21-1.37) were anti-HCV and HCV RNA positive, respectively. Most HCV-positive participants were older people. Age ≥65 and past use of illicit drugs were both positive independent predictors of anti-HCV positivity, while female sex was an independent protective predictor of infection. Only 9 (33.3%) of anti-HCV positive participants had awareness of their status.
CONCLUSIONS: We detected a much lower anti-HCV prevalence than those previously found in Calabria, along with a substantial change in HCV transmission modes. Infected people were almost only elderly and mostly unaware of their infection. Improving diagnosis and linkage to care for these infected persons would be needed.

KEY WORDS: Epidemiology; General population; Hepatitis C virus; Italy; Prevalence

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