BMJ open 2016 05 266(5) e010661 doi 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-010661
An unlinked anonymous seroprevalence study was conducted to estimate the prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in samples derived from antenatal clinic attendees at 2 East London Hospitals. An unexpectedly high HCV seroprevalence of 2.6% (1.2% viraemic) had been revealed during an unlinked study of the emergency department at 1 of these hospitals.
1000 stored residual samples were tested for HCV antibody (anti-HCV) and reactive samples were further tested for HCV RNA. The study was reviewed by the East Midland NRES ethics committee project ID 181154, approval number 15/WS/0125.
The anti-HCV reactivity rate was 0.5% (5/1000) with 0.1% (1/1000) confirmed viraemic. Prevalence for the other blood-borne viruses was higher: 1% (10/1000) were hepatitis B surface antigen positive and 0.3% were HIV antigen/antibody positive (3/1000). There were no co-infections.
More data to establish the prevalence of HCV in the antenatal population is needed. The addition of anti-HCV testing to the well-established antenatal screening programme provides a unique opportunity to impact on the health of pregnant women, their children, partners and future pregnancies in this new era of treatment for hepatitis C.