Departments of aGastroenterology and Hepatology bEpidemiology cPathophysiology dNephrology, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases, Medical University of Silesia, Katowice, Poland.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections may seriously affect survival rate. The median length of life in developed countries is increasing and the elderly may be considered as an epidemiologically distinct group due to higher whole-life risk of blood-borne viral infections.
To determine the seroprevalence of HBV and HCV infections in elderly individuals participating in a Polish nationwide survey - PolSenior.
A total of 4979 individuals aged 65 years and older were asked about past or present viral hepatitis, and a blood test was carried out for HBsAg and anti-HCV antibodies in 3826 individuals. The respondents were divided into six age groups of equal size: 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, 85-89, and 90+ years.
Past or present diagnosis of viral hepatitis was reported by 176 individuals (3.58%) and its prevalence was significantly most common in urban than in rural residents (4.02 vs. 2.92%; P=0.04). In multivariate analysis, only the job category was a significant variable (P=0.01) for the occurrence of viral hepatitis [most frequently in white-collar workers (3.56%) and least frequently in agricultural workers (1.47%)]. The overall prevalence of a positive HBsAg test was 1.12% (n=43) and that of an anti-HCV test was 2.93% (n=112). Only 12 anti-HCV-positive patients (10.7%) were aware of infection. Multivariate analyses did not indicate significant effects of age, sex, alcohol consumption, nutrition, marital or economic status, educational level, and site of residence on the incidence of HBV and HCV infections. HBsAg was associated with higher serum levels of aspartate aminotransferase, and anti-HCV with higher levels of aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase.
In elderly individuals, the seroprevalence of HBsAg is lower and the seroprevalence of anti-HCV is considerably higher than that in the general Polish population. The former may have been because of increased mortality from HBV-related complications and the latter of increased whole-life risk of infection. Programs for screening of elderly individuals for occult HCV infection should be considered.