Introduction: Acute hepatitis C (AHC) is asymptomatic in about 70-80 % of cases and, therefore, is usually undiagnosed. Although the clinical course is typically mild, AHC has a high rate of transition to chronicity.
Material and methods: We evaluated the literature data concerning risk factors for HCV transmission, diagnosis, natural history, and antiviral treatment of AHC.
Results: Although new methods have been developed, anti-HCV seroconversion remains the gold standard for the diagnosis of AHC. This phenomenon, however, is identifiable in less than half of cases in the everyday clinical practice, since most AHC patients do not know their previous anti-HCV/HCV-RNA status. An early short-term interferon treatment in AHC patients prevents progression to chronicity in most of treated patients.
Conclusion: The literature data give evidence of the clinical relevance of an early diagnosis of AHC for an early short-term interferon treatment. There is also the suggestion to use newly developed laboratory methods to distinguish AHC from an acute exacerbation of a chronic HCV infection.