Risk Factors and Seroprevalence of Hepatitis C among Patients Hospitalized at Mulago Hospital, Uganda
BACKGROUND Screening donated blood for hepatitis C virus (HCV) is important for HCV prevention and is routinely practiced in North America and Europe. However, in many African countries little is known about HCV prevalence or cost-effectiveness of HCV antibody (anti-HCV) screening. METHODS We investigated 2592 plasma specimens collected consecutively from blood donors in central Uganda in 1999. Routine screening by the blood bank included human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), and syphilis. To assess HCV prevalence and cost-effectiveness of testing, specimens were additionally tested for anti-HCV IgG by enzyme immunosorbent assay (EIA). Specimens repeatedly reactive (RR) on EIA were tested with a recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA). RESULTS Overall, 107 (4.1%) specimens were HCV EIA RR. Fifteen EIA RR specimens (0.6%, 95% confidence interval = 0.3-0.9%) were RIBA positive and 47 (1.8%) were RIBA indeterminate. Most (80%) RIBA-positive specimens were non-reactive for HIV, HBsAg, and syphilis. RIBA positivity was not associated with donor age, sex, number of donations, HIV, or HBsAg positivity. Costs of screening donors for anti-HCV by using EIA were estimated at US Dollars 782 per potential transfusion-associated HCV infection (exposure to RIBA-positive blood) averted. CONCLUSIONS Current screening tests for other infections are ineffective in removing HCV-positive donations. Testing costs are considerable; cost-effectiveness of identifying HCV-infected donors will be critical in decision making about HCV screening in Uganda.