Seroprevalence of hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infections in elderly residents in nursing homes in southern Italy

G. Caccamo 1, D. Brischetto 2, A. Alibrandi 3, P. Parisi 4, G. Pettinato 5, A. Catalano 2, G. Raimondo 1 6, G. Basile 2

1 Division of Clinical and Molecular Hepatology, University Hospital of Messina, Italy; 2 Unit and School of Geriatrics, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Messina, Italy; 3 Unit of Statistics, Department of Economy, University of Messina, Italy; 4 Medical Director, Nursing Home “Opus”, Messina, Italy; 5 Medical Director, Nursing Home “Il Giardino sui Laghi”, Messina, Italy; 6 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Messina, Italy

Background & aims. Epidemiological studies mainly performed in the ‘90s reported a high prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in Italian elderly subjects whereas HBV prevalence was generally below 1%, even in this age range. Moreover, during the last decades few studies were performed to investigate the seroprevalence of hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infections in nursing homes. The aim of this study was to evaluate the current prevalence of HBV and HCV infections in a population of older residents in two nursing homes in a Sicilian urban area.

Methods. A total number of 316 male subjects [115 (36.4%), median age 84 years (range 65-101 years)] consecutively admitted to two nursing homes in Messina from January to December 2015, were tested for HBV surface antigen (HBsAg), anti-HBV and anti-HCV antibodies. Transaminase (AT) values were evaluated in all patients. 

Results. Three/316 subjects(0.95%) tested HBsAg positive. Serological markers of previous HBV infection (HBsAg negative, anti-HBV positive) were found in 81/316 cases (25.6%). Nine/316 cases (2.8%) tested positive for anti-HCV. Neither HBsAg nor anti-HCV positive subjects had any laboratory or clinical evidence of liver disease. Only 2/316 patients (both HBV and HCV serum-marker negative) had AT values above the upper limit of the normal range. 

Conclusions. Low HBV and HCV prevalence together with a lack of evidence of liver disease in both HBsAg and anti-HCV positive subjects suggest that the development of a virus-related hepatic illness is generally incompatible with reaching old age. 

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