Hepatitis C Virus Infection in Chronic Liver Disease in Somalia

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  • Institute of the Clinic of Tropical and Infectious Diseases, La Sapienza University, Faculty of Medicine, Somali National University, Rome, Italy

To assess the role of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in liver disease in Somalia, antibody to HCV (anti-HCV) was studied by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA) in 110 patients with chronic liver diseases, in 309 healthy adults, in 179 institutionalized subjects with a high prevalence of intestinal parasites and Schistosoma haematobium, and in 287 children with diseases other than hepatitis. According to the RIBA test, anti-HCV was present in three healthy adults (0.97%), in four institutionalized individuals (2.2%), but in none of the children. The prevalence of anti-HCV was 4.8% in patients with hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive chronic liver diseases and 20.6% in patients with HBsAg-negative chronic liver diseases. Thus, HCV infection appears to play a minor role in HBsAg-positive liver disease in Somalia but may be an important factor in HBsAg-negative chronic liver disease. The low anti-HCV prevalence in individuals with no hepatic disorders is consistent with the fact that HCV does not spread by nonpercutaneous transfer. We found also a large proportion of both patients with hepatic disease and institutionalized individuals who tested positive by ELISA but not confirmed by RIBA. However, the likelihood of a true positive result increases proportionally with the ELISA value; thus, in most cases a low ELISA value probably represents a false-positive reaction, while a high ELISA value probably represents a true positive reaction.