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Prevalence of hepatitis B and C viral infections in hospitalized patients with increased liver enzyme levels and with no known history of hepatic disease

Nov. 24, 2021

Introduction and objectives

Identification of asymptomatic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) carriers is fundamental to reach the World Health Organization objective to eradicate viral hepatitis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the HBV and HCV prevalence among patients hospitalized for a non-liver-related disease but showing increased liver enzyme values.

Patients and methods

All consecutive patients without history of hepatic disease but showing increased amino-transferase and/or gamma-glutamil-transpeptidase levels at admission to the Internal Medicine and Surgery divisions of the Messina University Hospital from 1st January to 31st December 2019 (“study group”) were tested for HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) and anti-HCV antibody. Analogously, HBsAg and anti-HCV were tested for in all the individuals with normal liver enzyme values consecutively admitted from October 1st to December 31st, 2019 (“control group”).

Results

Of the 332 “study group” patients, 13 (3.9%) were anti-HCV positive versus 5/306 (1.6%) patients of the “control group” (p=0.008). HCV RNA was detected in 11/13 and in 0/5 anti-HCV patients of the “study group” and “control group”, respectively (p=0.001). HBsAg was detected in 5 (1.5%) “study group” patients and in none of the “control group” (p=0.03). Prevalence of diabetes, arterial hypertension, and dyslipidaemia was comparable between the two groups, whereas 75/332 (22.3%) patients of the “study group” and 34/306 (11.1%) patients of the “control group” drank > 2 alcohol units/day (p < 0.001).

Conclusion

Testing HBsAg and anti-HCV in subjects showing increased liver enzyme values may represent an efficacious tool to identify asymptomatic carriers of hepatitis virus infections.

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