The seroprevalence of hepatitis C virus is lower in Iran compared with other countries in the Middle East, according to the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis.
However, investigators found significant heterogeneity across studies, and thus concluded their evidence is limited.
“Our results demonstrate that the overall prevalence of HCV infection among [the] Iranian general population is relatively low compared to other developing countries,” they wrote. “However, the significant heterogeneity among included studies limits this conclusion. Therefore, further high-quality studies are recommended to provide more robust evidence on the prevalence of HCV among [the] general population.”
To provide a point estimate for HCV prevalence in Iran to inform preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic strategies, the researchers reviewed relevant population-based studies and ultimately included 12 in their analysis.
They found that the overall HCV seroprevalence was 0.6% (95% CI, 0.4-0.8) among the Iranian general population, but this varied significantly across different provinces, ranging from 0.08% in the Mazandaran province to 1.6% in the Hormozgan province.
Additionally, they found the overall prevalence of true viremia was 0.4% (95% CI, 0.1-0.6).
“These values indicate a spontaneous eradication rate of almost 35%, which is in agreement with other reports from Iran,” the researchers wrote. “Therefore, Iran could be considered a country with low frequency of HCV infection among the general population.”
Other studies, for example, have reported that HCV seroprevalence ranges from 1% to 2.1% in Turkey, is 2.2% in the Gaza strip, 1.7% in Yemen, and 1.5% in the United Arab Emirates, the researchers wrote.
They also identified study location and sex as sources of heterogeneity. HCV seroprevalence ranged from 0.14% to 2.6% in men and from 0% to 1.29% in women. The overall HCV seroprevalence was 0.8% (95% CI, 0.4-1.2) in men and 0.5% (95% CI, 0.2-0.8) in women, and the overall prevalence of viremia was 0.5% and 0.1% in men and women, respectively.
“The most important causative factor for the lower prevalence of HCV infection rate in our country in comparison with other developing countries is the strict program of HCV infection screening prior to transfusion, which started in Iran in 1996,” the researchers wrote.
In light of the considerable variation of HCV prevalence between countries in the Middle East, “establishing appropriate country-specific strategies regarding prevention, diagnosis, and treatment is crucial with the aim of reducing the disease burden represented by HCV,” they concluded. – by Adam Leitenberger
Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.