Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, and Institute of Pathobiology, Addis Ababa University, Departement de Virologie et Institut de Neurologie Tropicale, Faculte de Medecine, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Antibodies to hepatitis C virus (HCV) were measured in 1,580 Ethiopian subjects representing urban and rural populations. Sera found positive by a repeated second generation enzyme immunoassay (EIA) were subjected to three additional confirmatory tests. The overall confirmed seroprevalence was 2.0%. Less than 1% were confirmed to be seropositive in rural communities, with 1.4% positive among blood donors, 1.6% positive among patients with dermatologic disorders, 3.6% among leprosy patients, and 6.0% among patients attending a University Hospital clinic for neurologic disorders. The patients in the groups with leprosy and neurologic disorders have most likely been in ill health for many years and have sought relief by traditional healers or treatment at poorly equipped clinics. This group of patients demonstrated a high prevalence of antibodies to HCV. In Ethiopia, especially in small clinics, there is a shortage of syringes and needles and they have to be reused many times often with inadequate sterilization. Therefore, these syringes and needles may be contaminated, thus being a risk factor for HCV and HIV infection.