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Background and objectives: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major health problem in Egypt with its prevalence estimated to be 14.7% among general population in 2008. Patients receiving frequent blood transfusions like sickle cell disease (SCD) are more exposed to the risk of acquiring HCV. IL28B gene polymorphisms have been associated with spontaneous HCV clearance. This study aims to determine the prevalence of HCV infection among children with SCD and to study the relation between IL28B gene polymorphisms and spontaneous HCV clearance.
Methods: Seventy SCD patients were screened for HCV antibody. HCV positive patients were tested for the level of HCV RNA using quantitative real time PCR. IL28B polymorphisms (rs 12979860 SNP and rs 12980275 SNP) were detected using Taqman QRT-PCR and sequence specific primers PCR respectively.
Results: Sixteen patients (23%) were HCV antibody positive, 9 of them (56.3%) had undetectable HCV RNA in serum and 7 (43.7%) had persistent viremia. Genotypes CC/CT/TT of rs12979860 were found in 30 (42.9%), 29 (41.4%) and 11 (15.7%) and rs12980275 AA/AG/GG were found in 8 (11.4%), 59 (84.3%) and 3 (4.3%). There was no significant difference in the frequency of IL28B (rs 12979860 and rs12980275) genotypes among HCV patients who cleared the virus and those with persistent viremia (p=0.308 and 0.724 respectively).
Conclusion: Egyptian SCD patients have high prevalence of HCV. Muti-transfused patients still exposed to a risk of transmission of HCV. IL28B gene polymorphisms are not associated with spontaneous clearance of HCV in this cohort of Egyptian children with SCD.