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Prevalence of Hepatitis G in Patients on Chronic Hemodialysis by Fritz K. Matzkies, Udo Bahner, Michael Weizenegger, Jan Bartel, Paul Cullen, Roland M. Schaefer

Hepatitis G virus (HGV) is a newly described RNA virus from the family of flaviviridae. It is closely related to the hepatitis C Virus (HCV) but is more common than HCV among healthy blood donors. The pathogenicity of HGV in immunosuppressed patients such as those undergoing hemodialysis is unclear. We measured the incidence of HGV in 105 patients undergoing hemodialysis in a chronic outpatient hemodialysis facility. HGV-RNA was detected using a RT-PCR method with primers directed against the 5' non-coding region and the NS5a gene of HGV. Nine (8.6%) patients were HGV RNA positive, eleven (10.5%) were anti-HCV positive, three (2.9%) were positive for hepatitis B surface antigen. Four patients were positive for both HGV and HCV; three of them had normal liver enzymes while one showed elevated ALT levels but no other signs of exacerbation of preexisting hepatitis. The prevalence of HGV among dialysis patients is comparable to that of HCV. The transmission route for HCV is nosocomial transmission during dialysis, whereas HGV shows both ways of transmission: blood transfusion mediated by a high prevalence of HGV among healthy blood donors and nosocomial transmission. HGV appears to play a minor role in acute hepatitis, even in immunosuppressed patients.

DOI: Clin. Lab. 2000;46:247-250