Reuters Health Information (2005-09-05): Hepatitis C threatens new generation of Egyptians
Hepatitis C threatens new generation of Egyptians
Last Updated: 2005-09-05 13:43:03 -0400 (Reuters Health)
CAIRO, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Egyptian children face a high
risk of contracting hepatitis C from their parents, probably through
the use of dirty needles in a country with one of the world's highest
infection rates, a medical journal said.
About 14 to 18 percent of Egyptians carry the Hepatitis C (HCV)
virus. The disease exploded in Egypt between 1960 and 1970, when
unsterilised needles were used during a government campaign to treat
the water-borne disease bilharzia.
Now the disease threatens the next generation of Egyptians,
according to a study that found that parents could be passing HCV to
"The strong relationship between the risk of infection in a child to
the presence of (HCV) in their parents suggests transmission of HCV is
occurring between family members," Dr. G. Thomas Strickland of the
Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, said in the study, published in
September's issue of the journal Hepatology.
Conducted in rural areas where bilharzia is rife, the study did not
find the exact routes of transmission, but said HCV could have been
passed on through contact with blood or saliva. In a household
environment, HCV can spread by sharing razors or toothbrushes, or by
But it said the practice within rural Egyptian families of sharing needles was the most probable method of transmission.
"The most common exposures (to HCV) among our subjects were frequent
injections... Usually for health purposes and often given at home by
'injectionists' who sometimes reuse their own needles and syringes or
use household-provided syringes and needles in more than one person,"
Dr. Strickland said.
Out of the 6,734 HCV-free Egyptians who took part in the 19-month
study, 67 percent of those who went on to contract HCV were under the
age of 20, and of those 22 youths, the infection rate was greatest for
those under the age of 10.
In his report, Dr. Strickland said that although it was difficult to
draw statistical significance from the relatively small number of
people who contracted HCV, further studies should be conducted into
transmission within families.
"Learning the mechanisms by which HCV transmission is occurring
between family members so that preventative measures can be initiated,
particularly in children having HCV-infected parents, is important," he