Robinson González, Verónica Hernández, Rosa M. Pérez, Manuel Alvarez, Arturo Morales, Marco Arellano, Arnoldo Riquelme, Paola Viviani, Carmen Covarrubias, Marco Arrese, Juan Francisco Miquel, Flavio Nervi
Chronic hepatitis C is a major cause of liver-related morbidity and mortality. Epidemiological data regarding this infection in developing countries is scanty. Methods: Prevalence of hepatitis C (HCV) infection was investigated in a random sample of Chilean general adult population older than 20 years of age. Additionally, frequency of HCV infection was assessed in group of native Chilean Amerindians (Mapuche Indians) living in an isolated locality of the Southern Chile. Incidence of HCV infection was estimated using serum samples separated by 7 years (1993-2000). Results: Among 959 subjects, prevalence of anti-HCV antibodies was 1.15% (95% CI 0.48-1.82%) and 0.83% when only RIBA-confirmed cases were considered. Among these subjects, 62.5% had detectable HCV RNA in serum and 40% of them had a history of blood transfusion. Age distribution of cases showed a steadily increasing prevalence with age. Estimated incidence of new HCV infections was 15 per 100,000 subjects per year in the period 1993-2000. No cases were detected among the 145 Mapuche subjects studied. Conclusions: HCV infection is a prevalent disease in the Hispanic population of Chile with a low incidence in the last decade, whereas it was not detected in an isolated Mapuche Indian community. Age distribution of prevalence suggests that the peak of infection in Chile occurred 30 to 50 years ago.
Key words. Incidence, hepatitis C virus, liver disease, HCV, epidemiology, Mapuche Indians, Prevalence