Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major cause of chronic liver disease resulting in cirrhosis and hepatocarcinoma. It is believed to be widespread in Africa but its epidemiology is incomplete and is yet to be determined in many areas of the sub-saharan Africa including Nigeria. Using third generation enzyme immuno-assay (EIA-3) and recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA) technique as confirmatory test, we examined the prevalence of HCV antibodies in 226 blood donors and 226 patients attending Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) in Kano, Nigeria and evaluated the risk factors of HCV transmission in this environment. HCV antibodies were detected in 0.4% and 2.2% blood donors and patients respectively. The overall HCV seroprevalence was 1.3%. There was increased infection acquisition with increasing age; one (16.7%) HCV infection occurred in 25-34 years age group and 5 or 83.3% in subjects > 45 years in age which was significant (P< 0.05). The ratio of infection in male to female was 1:5. Evidence of previous exposure via transfusion was common in HCV seropositive subjects and could be a major risk factor of acquisition in this environment. Adequate screening of blood products in sub- Saharan Africa (Nigeria inclusive) may minimize the risk of HCV transmission and associated health complications.
Key words: Hepatitis C virus, seroprevalence, patients, blood donors, risk factors.
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