OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to estimate the seroprevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the general population older than 18 years of age in a southern Italian town. METHODS: The survey was conducted from July 2005 through January 2007 in Putignano, Bari, Apulia. A random 1:5 sampling from the list of records maintained by general practitioners was used. Serology for HCV, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), antibodies to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc), and genotyping for HCV were performed. RESULTS: Of a total of 2,195 serum samples tested, 58 (2.6%) were positive for anti-HCV antibodies. The prevalence increased from 1% in subjects aged 0.4). Approximately one-third of 58 positive subjects also showed alanine transaminase levels and 53.5% tested positive for HCV RNA by TaqMan PCR. Genotypes 2a and 1b were represented in 21 and 10 subjects, respectively. In a multivariate logistic regression analysis, age (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.05; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.03-1.07), blood transfusion (adjusted OR 3.3; 95% CI: 1.7-6.3), and household contact with HCV-infected individuals (adjusted OR 4.8; 95% CI: 1.8-13.1) were the independent variables predictive of HCV infection. The overall HBsAg and anti-HBc prevalence rates were 0.5 and 12%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: This survey confirms that HCV infection is clearly also declining in southern Italy, especially among the elderly. HCV genotype 2a predominates, reflecting the current epidemiology of HCV in Italy. Age, blood transfusion, and household contact with HCV-infected individuals may have had a role in the spread of HCV infection.
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