Object: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is common in hemodialysis (HD) patients. In the present study, the prevalence and properties of HCV in HD patients were analyzed.
Methods and results: Of 125 HD patients, 34 (27%) were positive for antibody to HCV, and HCV-RNA was detected in 23 (68%) of the 34 patients using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. The HCV-RNA sequence analysis did not identify the alterations specific to HD patients with HCV, although one patient had a variant virus containing the deletion of the core gene sequence. When serial changes in the levels of HCV-RNA were evaluated in 15 patients by a branched DNA assay, the values decreased immediately after HD procedure, but returned to the baseline values 2 days after the procedure.
Conclusion: These results indicate that HCV in HD patients is replication-competent, although a transient reduction in the levels of HCV-RNA occurs during HD.