Background: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) is transmitted by blood-blood contact and this leads to high HCV prevalence in risk populations such as haemophilia patients and intravenous drug users. The prevalence in the general Dutch population is unknown, although it appears to be very low in screened blood donors (0.0169%).
Aim: The objective of this study is to estimate the prevalence of HCV in a general population sample living in an urbanized region in the Netherlands.
Methods: We randomly selected 2200 EDTA blood samples that had been submitted for analysis of biochemical parameters to a regional servicing laboratory for general practitioners (SHO, Arnhem/Nijmegen, the Netherlands). HCV antibody testing was performed using a three-step approach. For initial screening, an enzyme immunoassay (Bioelisa HCV 4.0, Biokit, Spain) was used. Positive samples were subjected to a second, microparticle enzyme-linked immunoassay (AxSYM HCV version 3.0, Abbott laboratories, IL , USA). Genotypes were determined by Line Probe Assay.
Results: A total of four persons (two females, two males) (0.2%) tested positive for HCV antibodies. The average OD/cut-off ratio of the screening assay was 2.9 (range 1.0 to 7.3) and serological findings were confirmed using a specific second immunoassay. HCV RNA (genotype 1b) was found in the sera of two persons.
Conclusion: The HCV prevalence in our sample of the Dutch population was 0.2% which accords with earlier estimates from prevalence studies in the Netherlands.