COMMENTARY

Current Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C

Emmet B. Keeffe, MD, Stanford University Medical Center, Stanford, California

April 01, 2002

In This Article

Background

Chronic hepatitis C is a major public health problem in the United States and worldwide.[1,2] In the United States, 1.8% (3.9 million) of adults have detectable anti-hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody, and 74% of these (2.7 million) are viremic with detectable serum HCV RNA.[2] An estimated 170 million individuals are infected worldwide. Data from population-based studies demonstrate that chronic HCV infection accounts for 40% of chronic liver disease and results in an estimated 8000-10,000 deaths annually in the United States.[1,2] Likely only 20% to 30% of all infected individuals have been identified, leaving a large undiagnosed reservoir of predominantly adult-aged persons. Progression to cirrhosis occurs in 20% or more cases within 2 decades of infection, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) may develop after 3 decades. Once cirrhosis is present, the incidence rate of HCC is 2% to 5% per year.

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