A 25-Year Study of the Clinical and Histologic Outcomes of Hepatitis C Virus Infection and Its Modes of Transmission in a Cohort of Initially Asymptomatic Blood Donors

Department of Transfusion Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.
The Journal of Infectious Diseases (Impact Factor: 5.85). 06/2012; 206(5):654-61. DOI: 10.1093/infdis/jis410
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A total of 738 volunteer blood donors who were positive for anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) were assessed for risk factors and outcomes for up to 15 years within the study and up to 54 years from the estimated onset of infection.
A third-generation recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA) was performed to distinguish true from false anti-HCV reactivity. Findings of HCV polymerase chain reaction classified subjects as having chronic HCV infection or as having recovered. Liver biopsy specimens were staged by Ishak fibrosis score and graded by histologic activity index.
Of 738 anti-HCV-positive subjects, 469 (64%) had positive RIBA results, 217 (29%) had negative results, and 52 (7%) had indeterminate results. Primary independent risk factors were injection drug use (odds ratio [OR], 35.0; P < .0001), blood transfusion (OR, 9.9; P < .0001), and intranasal cocaine use, including 79 "snorters" who repeatedly denied injection drug use or blood transfusion (OR, 8.5; P < .0001). Classification and regression tree and random forest analyses confirmed these risk factors. A total of 384 RIBA-positive donors (82%) were HCV RNA positive; of these, liver biopsy specimens from 185 (48%) showed no fibrosis in 33%, mild fibrosis in 52%, bridging fibrosis in 12%, and cirrhosis in 2% a mean duration of 25 years after infection. Analysis of 63 repeat biopsy specimens showed that 8% progressed ≥2 Ishak stages over 5 years (mean progression, 0.06 Ishak stages/year).
Injection drug use and blood transfusion before 1990 are dominant risk factors for HCV acquisition; intranasal cocaine use may be a surreptitious route of parenteral spread. After a mean of 25 years of HCV infection, histologic outcomes were relatively mild: 85% had no or mild fibrosis, and only 2% had cirrhosis. Nearly one-fifth spontaneously recovered.

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