Gastroenterology Research and Practice

Gastroenterology Research and Practice / 2011 / Article

Clinical Study | Open Access

Volume 2011 |Article ID 939673 | 4 pages |

Risk Factors for Hepatitis C Virus Transmission Obscure in Nigerian Patients

Academic Editor: Simon P. Horslen
Received21 Mar 2011
Accepted23 May 2011
Published13 Jul 2011


Aim. To determine the prevalence of anti-HCV and risk factors associated with HCV infection in Nigerians. Materials and Method. Patients attending a general outpatient clinic were administered a structured questionnaire on the risk factors for HCV infection. They were also tested for anti-HCV using a third generation enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Result. The seroprevalence of anti-HCV was 4.7%. Among the risk factors evaluated, none was found to be significantly associated with anti-HCV seropositivity. Conclusion. The risk factors associated with HCV infection in Nigerian patients are obscure. This warrants further studies on the epidemiology of this important cause of liver disease.

1. Introduction

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection continues to be a major disease burden on the world. In 1999, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated a worldwide prevalence of about 3% with the virus affecting 170 million people worldwide [1]. A more recent estimate puts the prevalence at 2.2% corresponding to about 130 million HCV-positive persons worldwide [2]. Because many countries lack data, this estimate is based on weighted averages for regions rather than individual countries.

In the industrialized countries, HCV accounts for 20% of cases of acute hepatitis, 70% of cases of chronic hepatitis, 40% of cases of end stage cirrhosis, 60% of cases of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and 30% of liver transplants [3, 4]. An estimated 27% of cirrhosis and 25% of hepatocellular carcinoma worldwide occur in HCV-infected people [5].

The most efficient transmission of HCV is through large or repeated direct percutaneous exposure to blood (of transfusion or transplantation from infectious donors and injecting drug use) [6]. HCV is less efficiently transmitted by single small-dose percutaneous exposure (e.g., accidental needle sticks) [6, 7] or by mucosal exposures to blood or serum-derived fluids (e.g., birth to an infected mother and sexual intercourse with an infected partner) [6, 8, 9]. The high transmission rate through illicit intravenous drug use (IVDU) explains why the prevalence of HCV among people who acquired human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through IVDU reaches 90% [10].

The risk factors for HCV transmission in Nigeria have not been properly characterized. Even in the western world where some risk factors have been identified, recent studies indicate that the global epidemiology of HCV has been changing [11, 12]. This scenario has compounded efforts at developing strategies for HCV screening. This study was designed to determine the prevalence of HCV infection in Nigerian patients and to determine the risk factors associated with it.

2. Materials and Methods

This study was a cross-sectional seroprevalence study involving adult patients attending the General out-patient clinic of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku-Ozalla. The study was approved by the Hospital Research Ethics Committee, and the participants gave informed consent.

Patients who had symptoms and signs suggestive of liver disease were excluded. Each participant was administered a structured questionnaire containing the putative risk factors for HCV transmission.

Venous blood (5 mLs) was obtained from the participants and tested for antibody to HCV (anti-HCV) using a third generation enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) manufactured by DRG International Inc., USA. This test kit has a sensitivity of 95% and specificity of 97.5%.

The data was analyzed and the results expressed as means and proportions. Differences between means and proportions were determined using student’s -test and chi-squared test, respectively. A value of ≤0.05 was considered statistically significant.

3. Results

Three hundred and sixty (360) patients participated in the study. They consisted of 183 males (50.8%) and 177 females (49.2%). Their ages ranged between 19 years and 75 years ( years). Seventeen patients tested positive for anti-HCV (4.7%). The mean age of the anti-HCV-positive patients was years while the mean age of the anti-HCV-negative patients was years. The difference between the means was not statistically significant ( ). Table 1 illustrates the anti-HCV serostatus and gender distribution of the patients. The putative risk factors were marginally more frequent in the anti-HCV seropositive patients compared to the anti-HCV-negative group, but none reached statistical significance (Table 2).

GroupAnti-HCV positive (%)Anti-HCV negative (%)Total

Males6 (3.3)177 (96.7)183
Females11 (6.2)166 (93.8)177
Total17 (4.7)343 (95.3)360

Risk factorAnti-HCV positive ( )Anti-HCV negative ( )Relative riskOdds ratio value

Blood transfusion2361.1151.1210.0220.882
Multiple sexual partners3591.0251.0260.0020.97
Sharing of toothbrush4781.0331.0350.0040.95
Sharing of razor blades51011.0001.0000.0000051.00
Sharing of shaving sticks1191.0591.0620.0030.95
Injections from quacks2401.0081.0090.000130.99
Scarification markings1171.1761.1870.0260.87
Occupational exposure050.0001.7840.2480.62
Intravenous drug use00

4. Discussion

The seroprevalence of anti-HCV in this study was 4.7%. This finding is comparable to the results of similar studies across the continent [1321]. However, none of the putative risk factors evaluated in this study showed any significant association with anti-HCV seropositivity.

Transfusion-associated HCV infection was a predominant worldwide risk before HCV testing became available. It has been virtually eliminated in those countries that implemented routine HCV testing of donors [22], but in others, receipt of blood transfusion remains an important source of infection. Some countries continue to use commercial donors to supplement their blood supplies [23]. In Nigeria, the low risk of transmission through blood transfusion may be related to the low prevalence of HCV in the general populace, coupled with the fact that Nigeria is successfully implementing a national blood safety programme led by Safe Blood for Africa Foundation (SBFA) to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS [24]. An estimated 3.6% of Nigerians are living with HIV and AIDS [25], which translates into about 3.3 million people. HCV coinfection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and/or HIV has been described in some studies in Nigeria [26, 27].

Certain high-risk behaviours and practices which are prevalent in African societies have been shown to play some role in Hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmission. These include scarification marks, sharing of sharp body-piercing instruments like razor blades, sharing of toothbrushes, and instruments for native uvulectomies [28]. Uvulectomy is practiced in Nigerian communities as treatment for sore throat. It is usually carried out by local healers in very unhygienic environments without any consideration for infection control. The instruments used are not usually sterilized. The procedure carries other risks like bleeding, anemia, sepsis, and transmission of other pathogens including HIV and HBV. Deaths have resulted from such procedures [29].

These high-risk behaviours and practices do not seem to contribute significantly to the spread of HCV. The reason for this may also be related to the low prevalence of HCV in the populations involved. Another reason is the fact that HBV is approximately 10 times more infectious than HCV [30, 31].

The risk factors for HCV infection may be unidentified in a significant proportion of patients in many parts of the world. In a study in Iran, the risk factors for infection could not be identified in 20% of cases [32]. In other studies, risk factors accounting for infection remain unknown in 10–40% of patients with acute or chronic Hepatitis C [33, 34]. A study conducted recently at a Northern California Liver centre between 2001 and 2008 showed that Asian-Americans are more likely to present with unidentifiable risk exposure [35]. The researchers concluded that the commonly known risk factors for HCV may be more appropriate for risk assessment for Caucasians and Hispanics but not for Asian-Americans. These findings pose major implications for developing strategies for HCV screening in our increasingly culturally diverse population.

In conclusion, the seroprevalence of anti-HCV in a population of Nigerians attending a general out-patient clinic is 4.7%. The risk factors associated with anti-HCV seropositivity are largely obscure, and this calls for more studies into the epidemiology of HCV infection in order to develop effective strategies for screening.


  1. W. H. O., “Global surveillance and control of hepatitis C. Report of a WHO consultation organized in collaboration with the Viral Hepatitis Prevention Board Antwerp, Belgium,” Journal of Viral Hepatitis, vol. 6, pp. 35–47, 1999. View at: Google Scholar
  2. Y. Hutin, M. E. Kitler, G. J. Dore et al., “Global burden of disease (GBD) for hepatitis C,” Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 20–29, 2004. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  3. J. P. Benhamou, J. Rodes, H. Alter et al., “EASL international consensus conference on hepatitis C, Paris, 26-28 February 1999: consensus statement,” Journal of Hepatology, vol. 30, no. 5, pp. 956–961, 1999. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  4. “Consensus conference. Treatment of hepatitis C. guidelines,” Gastroentérologie Clinique et Biologique, vol. 26, pp. B312–B320, 2002. View at: Google Scholar
  5. J. F. Perz, G. L. Armstrong, L. A. Farrington, Y. J. Hutin, and B. P. Bell, “The contributions of hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infections to cirrhosis and primary liver cancer worldwide,” Journal of Hepatology, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 529–538, 2006. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  6. “Recommendations for prevention and control of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and HCV-related chronic disease. Centre for disease control and prevention,” MMWR—Recommendations and Reports, vol. 47, pp. 1–39, 1998. View at: Google Scholar
  7. V. Puro, N. Petrosillo, and G. Ippolito, “Risk of hepatitis C seroconversion after occupational exposure in healthcare workers. Italian Study Group on occupational risk of HIV and other bloodborne infections,” American Journal of Infection Control, vol. 23, pp. 273–277, 1995. View at: Google Scholar
  8. E. A. Roberts and L. Yeung, “Maternal-infant transmission of hepatitis C virus infection,” Hepatology, vol. 36, no. 5, supplement 1, pp. S106–S113, 2002. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  9. N. A. Terrault, “Sexual activity as a risk factor for hepatitis C,” Hepatology, vol. 36, no. 5, supplement 1, pp. S99–S105, 2002. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  10. M. S. Sulkowski and D. L. Thomas, “Hepatitis C in the HIV-infected person,” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 138, no. 3, pp. 197–207, 2003. View at: Google Scholar
  11. J. I. Esteban, S. Sauleda, and J. Quer, “The changing epidemiology of hepatitis C virus infection in Europe,” Journal of Hepatology, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 148–162, 2008. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  12. P. Fabris, V. Baldo, T. Baldovin et al., “Changing epidemiology of HCV and HBV infections in Northern Italy: a survey in the general population,” Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, vol. 42, no. 5, pp. 527–532, 2008. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  13. M. Imoru, C. Eke, and A. Adegoke, “Prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among blood donors in Kano State, Nigeria,” Journal of Medical Laboratory Science, vol. 12, pp. 59–63, 2003. View at: Google Scholar
  14. O. Erhabor, O. A. Ejele, and C. A. Nwauche, “The risk of transfusion-acquired hepatitis-C virus infection among blood donors in Port Harcourt: the question of blood safety in Nigeria,” Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 18–21, 2006. View at: Google Scholar
  15. B. B. D. Koate, F. I. Buseri, and Z. A. Jeremiah, “Seroprevalence of hepatitis C virus among blood donors in Rivers State, Nigeria,” Transfusion Medicine, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 449–451, 2005. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  16. D. Z. Egah, B. M. Mandong, D. Iya et al., “Hepatitis C Virus antibodies among blood donors in Jos, Nigeria,” Annals of African Medicine, vol. 3, pp. 35–37, 2004. View at: Google Scholar
  17. S. C. Nwokediuko, O. G. Ibegbulam, and T. Ugwu, “Hepatitis C Virus seroprevalence in blood d onors at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital Enugu,” Journal of College of Medicine, vol. 12, pp. 85–88, 2007. View at: Google Scholar
  18. Z. A. Jeremiah, B. Koate, F. Buseri, and F. Emelike, “Prevalence of antibodies to hepatitis C virus in apparently healthy Port Harcourt blood donors and association with blood groups and other risk indicators,” Blood Transfusion, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 150–155, 2008. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  19. O. Azeez-akande, A. Sarki, E. E. Wokedi, A. Olabode, and P. Alabi, “Seroprevalence and risk factors of Hepatitis C virus in patients and blood donors in Kano, Nigeria,” African Journal of Clinical and Experimental Microbiology, vol. 11, pp. 170–173, 2010. View at: Google Scholar
  20. C. I. Mboto, I. E. Andy, O. I. Eni, and A. P. Jewell, “Prevalence, sociodemographic characteristics and risk factors for hepatitis C infection among pregnant women in Calabar municipality, Nigeria,” Hepatitis Monthly, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 116–120, 2010. View at: Google Scholar
  21. E. S. Amadi, C. E. Ononiwu, N. Aballa, S. A. Oladimeji, F. A. Ancke, and C. O. Aneke, “The epidemiology of hepatitis C virus infection among patients attending the federal dental clinic, Enugu,” Trends in Medical Research, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 91–95, 2009. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  22. M. P. Busch, S. A. Glynn, S. L. Stramer et al., “A new strategy for estimating risks of transfusion-transmitted viral infections based on rates of detection of recently infected donors,” Transfusion, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 254–264, 2005. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  23. W. Hladik, P. Kataaha, J. Mermin et al., “Prevalence and screening costs of hepatitis C virus among Ugandan blood donors,” Tropical Medicine and International Health, vol. 11, no. 6, pp. 951–954, 2006. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  24. “Safe Blood Programs-Nigeria,” 2011, View at: Google Scholar
  25. UNGASS Country Report Nigeria, 2010.
  26. S. M. Agwale, L. Tanimoto, C. Womack et al., “Prevalence of HCV coinfection in HIV-infected individuals in Nigeria and characterization of HCV genotypes,” Journal of Clinical Virology, vol. 31, supplement 1, pp. S3–S6, 2004. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  27. J. A. Otegbayo, B. O. Taiwo, T. S. Akingbola et al., “Prevalence of hepatitis B and C seropositivity in a Nigerian cohort of HIV-infected patients,” Annals of Hepatology, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 152–156, 2008. View at: Google Scholar
  28. S. C. Nwokediuko, “Risk factors for hepatitis B virus transmission in Nigerians. A case-control study,” The Internet Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 10, no. 1, 2010. View at: Google Scholar
  29. A. O. Olaosun, K. O. Ojemakinde, A. A. Raji, T. O. Adedeji, and S. O. Adebola, “Death of a child with leukemia subjected to uvulectomy,” The Internet Journal of Third World Medicine, vol. 4, no. 2, 2007. View at: Google Scholar
  30. C. Weinbaum, R. Lyeria, and H. S. Margolis, “Centre for disease control and prevention. Prevention and control of infections with hepatitis viruses in correctional settings. Centre for disease control and prevention,” MMWR—Recommendations and Reports, vol. 52, pp. 1–36, 2003. View at: Google Scholar
  31. C. Weinbaum, I. Williams, and E. E. Mast, “Centre for disease control and prevention. Recommendations for identification and public health management of persons with chronic hepatitis B virus infection,” MMWR—Recommendations and Reports, vol. 57, pp. 1–20, 2008. View at: Google Scholar
  32. S. M. Alavian, B. Gholami, and S. Masarrat, “Hepatitis C risk factors in Iranian volunteer blood donors: a case-control study,” Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, vol. 17, no. 10, pp. 1092–1097, 2002. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  33. S. Zeuzem, G. Teuber, J. H. Lee, B. Rüster, and W. Kurt Roth, “Risk factors for the transmission of hepatitis C,” Journal of Hepatology, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 3–10, 1996. View at: Google Scholar
  34. R. A. Pondé, “Hidden hazards of HCV transmission,” Medical Microbiology and Immunology, vol. 200, no. 1, pp. 7–11, 2011. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  35. E. Y. Ho, N. B. Ha, H. Mindie, and H. Nguyen, “Risk factors for Hepatis C acquisition are more likely to be unidentifiable in Asian-Americans compared to Caucasians or Hispanics (prospective study),” in Proceedings of the Digestive Disease Week (DDW '09), Chicago, Ill, USA, May 2009, abstract M1779. View at: Google Scholar

Copyright © 2011 Olive Obienu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

2246 Views | 804 Downloads | 8 Citations
 PDF  Download Citation  Citation
 Download other formatsMore
 Order printed copiesOrder