Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, USA.
Chronic hepatitis C (CHC) infection is a risk factor for both the development of end-stage liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Globally, approximately 170 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and the majority of these individuals come from the western Pacific and Southeast Asia regions (94.6 million persons combined). CHC is an understudied and underappreciated health problem in many Asian countries and in the US, where Asians represent one of the fastest growing groups of new Americans.
To perform a systematic review of the current literature on the epidemiology, diagnosis and screening, clinical characteristics and response to anti-viral therapy of Asians with CHC.
Using a PubMed search of 'hepatitis C' and 'Asia,' 341 original manuscripts published in peer-reviewed journals were identified, and 99 were selected based on their relevance.
Many Asian CHC patients do not have easily identifiable risk factors and may be underdiagnosed. Rates of HCV infection in Asians on community screening in the US are unexpectedly high, and there is a high prevalence of HCV genotype 6 in Southeast Asia and Southern China. HCV-infected Asians tend to present at older age and may have higher risk of HCC; however, they respond better to anti-viral therapy than non-Asians across all HCV genotypes.
Given the high HCV endemicity in Asia, lack of identifiable risk factors and favourable treatment response rates in Asians, we advocate the screening for HCV infection of all Asians who come from areas where HCV prevalence is ≥2%.