A new study indicates that 75 percent of hepatitis C infections were among patients born between 1945 and 1964, and 50 percent of all hepatitis B infections were in the same age group. Both infections have a serious impact on health, causing high rates of hospitalization and death. The results were from the newly established Chronic Hepatitis Cohort Study (CHeCS), which investigated the larger implications and impact of chronic hepatitis B and C on the US population.
The participants were 11,000 patients over age 18 years, who had confirmed chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection and had been treated between 2006 and 2008 in Detroit, Michigan; Danville, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; and Honolulu, Hawaii. New patients will be added as they enter care. The 2,202 patients with hepatitis B had been in treatment for a median of 5.3 years. One-half of the patients were born between 1945 and 1964; most were men; 58 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander; and 13 percent were black. About 706 (47 percent) had an undetectable viral load and 58 percent received antiviral treatment. By the end of 2010, 9 percent had died, and approximately half of the deaths were in people aged 44–63 years.
The 8,810 participants with hepatitis C had been in treatment a median of 5.3 years. Of the patients with hepatitis C, 75 percent were born between 1945 and 1964; most were men (60 percent); 70 percent were white; and 23 percent were black. Viral load results were available for 63 percent of patients and the most recent values were undetectable for 20 percent of them. The majority with detectable viral load (80 percent) had received antiviral treatment. There was a 3 percent prevalence of HIV coinfection. About 13 percent were hospitalized each year, and 14 percent had died by the end of 2010. There was a very high mortality rate among the “baby boomers”—a quarter of whom had died.
The researchers commented that data from CHeCS are providing information that may be used for public health action and policy development. They concluded that the results strongly support the new policy of birth cohort testing of those born in 1945 through 1964. Researchers expect that the cohort will provide much data-driven information about the impact of therapies, co-morbidities, and conditions on people with HBV and HCV. The study titled, “Baseline Characteristics and Mortality Among People in Care for Chronic Viral Hepatitis: The Chronic Hepatitis Cohort Study,” was published online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases 2012 (doi: 10.1093/cid/cis815).