Background and objectives: Though regular blood transfusion improves the overall survival of patients with β-thalassemia, it carries a definite risk of infection with blood-borne viruses. The present study was carried out to estimate the real frequency of hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) among Egyptian β-thalassemic patients, and determine the infection-associated risk factors in these patients.
Design and setting: A prospective study conducted in a university hospital from January 2009 to January 2010.
Patients and methods: Two hundred patients with β-thalassemia major were enrolled in this study. Using enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay (ELISA), their sera were tested for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), antibody to hepatitis C core antigen (anti-HBc), and HCV antibody (HCV Ab). The positive HCV Ab results were confirmed by second-generation recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA).
Results: The study sample consisted of 111 males and 89 females, with a median age of 13 years. Eighty-one (40.5%) patients were HCV Ab positive by ELISA and 39 (19.5) were anti-HCV positive by RIBA; 58 (29.0%) were HBsAg positive and 13 (6.5%) were anti-HBC positive. Older age, an increased number of transfusion units, and HBsAg seropositivity were significantly associated with a higher prevalence of HCV and HBV.
Conclusion: The prevalence of HCV and HBV infections are very high among Egyptian β-thalassemic patients, which calls for a critical look into the prevailing transfusion practices and adoption of stricter donor selection criteria to decrease the incidence rate of both HCV and HBV infections effectively. Furthermore, there is a compressing need for the use of more specific and sensitive methods for HCV testing in Mansoura university hospitals.