High prevalence of HCV infection among the general population in a rural area of central Italy

Eur J Epidemiol. 2001;17(1):41-6. doi: 10.1023/a:1010932832190.


The hepatitis C virus infection (HCV) is the most frequent cause of hepatic infection in Europe. In Italy, anti-HCV positivity values are extremely variable, depending on the age and geographic location of the population being analysed. The aims of the study were: (1) evaluating positivity for anti-HCV antibodies in various age groups and determining the HBsAg in a mountainous and predominantly farming area in central Italy; (2) assessing some anamnestic and clinical variables through a questionnaire, submitted during the taking of blood samples, in order to determine HCV exposure and risk factors for the target population. 344 subjects selected by random sampling among 3308 people, older than 16, were considered as the target population. A prevalence study was carried out. The sources of data were: blood samples taken to carry out the HCV positivity test; a questionnaire including items about exposures at risk and case-historical and clinical patient data. The risk of infection was evaluated by a multiple logistic regression model. The inferred HCV+ prevalence rate is 22.4/100 (95% confidence interval (CI): 20.8-24.1). An increasing age trend is shown with a higher positive predominance among females (28.99/100 vs. 14.29/100 in males). The positive HBsAg prevalence in the examined survey is 1.2/100. Variables associated with the HCV occurrence are case history of pneumonopathy (OR: 4.9) and exposure to parenteral therapies with glass syringes (OR: 3.3). This study is consistent with literature about the hypothesis of a north-south geographic gradient in the hepatitis C occurrence in Italy. Data clearly show the effects of the inappropriate use of medical or surgery practices on the population, with particular reference to the use of glass syringes. No elements prove that the farming features of the area may be predictive of HCV infection risk. The extent of the recorded prevalence values calls for the implementation of programmes aimed at detecting clusters or population areas at risk.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Population