Assessment of hepatitis C virus infection in two adjacent Thai provinces with drastically different seroprevalence.
Wasitthankasem R., Vichaiwattana P., Siripon N., Posuwan N., Auphimai C., Klinfueng S., Thaneskongtong N., Vuthitanachot V., Saiyatha S., Thongmai C., Suwanpatoomlerd S., Sochoo S., Pongsuwan N., Poovorawan K., Tangkijvanich P., Vongpunsawad S., Poovorawan Y.
Improved awareness of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission has contributed to the overall decline in the HCV infection rate in some developing countries including Thailand. Chronic HCV infection in some rural Thai communities, however, presents a challenge in the efforts to treat and manage HCV-related diseases. Published and unpublished studies have suggested an unusually high incidence of HCV infection in a Thai province of Phetchabun compared to elsewhere in Thailand. To determine the magnitude of HCV infection and identify potential factors contributing to the higher rate of HCV infection in this province, we performed a population-based study in Phetchabun (n = 1667) and the neighboring Khon Kaen province (n = 1410) where HCV prevalence is much lower. Individuals between 30 and 64 years old completed detailed questionnaires designed to identify HCV risk factors and provided blood samples for anti-HCV antibody screening. The anti-HCV seropositive rates were 15.5% (259/1667) in Phetchabun and 3.6% (51/1410) in Khon Kaen. Positive samples were subsequently genotyped for HCV core gene sequence and assessed for the hepatitis B virus surface antigen (HBsAg) and human immunodeficiency virus antigen/antibody (HIV Ag/Ab). More individuals in Phetchabun possessed the combined presence of HBsAg (5.0%) and HIV Ag/Ab (0.4%) than those in Khon Kaen (3.9% HBsAg and 0.0% HIV Ag/Ab). While male gender, intravenous drug use (IVDU) and tattoos were significant HCV risk factors in both provinces (p <0.05), education less than high school and agriculture-related occupation were additionally associated with HCV in Phetchabun. HCV genotypes 6, 3, and 1 were identified in similar frequency in both provinces. We estimated that prevalence of HCV seropositivity and viremic carriers were higher in Phetchabun (143 and 111 per 1000) than in Khon Kaen (34 and 22 per 1000). Finally, we derived a simple risk factor-based scoring system as a useful preclinical tool to screen individuals at risk of chronic HCV infection prior to intervention. Knowledge gained from this study will assist in HCV screening and promote access to anti-viral treatment in high-risk groups.