Objective: The prevalence of anti-HCV in Germany has been determined for blood donors and certain risk groups, but the burden of disease in the general population remains unknown. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of anti-HCV in a study group representing the normal adult German population.
Design: A total of 5312 individuals aged 18-70 years were randomly selected from small, middle-sized and big cities in five different German states. Sera were tested for anti-HCV by enzyme immunoassay and immuno dot assay, as well as for anti-HBc and, in the case of a positive result, for anti-HBs and HBsAg. Serological typing was performed in anti-HCV-positive persons.
Results: Thirty-nine individuals were anti-HCV positive; indeterminate results (with antibodies against the viral core protein only) were obtained in 20. There was a tendency to higher prevalence rates with increasing age as well as to a higher prevalence in women. Serological typing revealed the presence of genotype 1 in the vast majority of participants (82%); only a minority showed genotype 3 (7.2%) or other genotypes (7.2%). Markers of HBV were seen in 43.6% of the anti-HCV positive individuals, with nearly one third (29.4%) of the double-infected showing anti-HBc as the only marker for HBV.
Conclusions: According to our data, an anti-HCV prevalence of 0.63% (95% confidence interval, CI, 0.42-0.84%) can be assumed in the general adult German population, with higher values in older people and women. Nearly half of the anti-HCV positive individuals also show markers of hepatitis B virus.