Prevalence of hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection in Libya: results from a national population based survey
1 Department of Medical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Tripoli, Libya
2 Department of Laboratory Medicine, Faculty of Biotechnology, Tripoli, Libya
3 Professor of Clinical Microbiology & Microbial Epidemiology, Acting Physician of Internal Medicine, Scientific Coordinator of Libyan National Surveillance Studies of Viral hepatitis & HIV, Tripoli, Libya
BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:17 doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-17Published: 9 January 2014
Libya is one of the largest countries in Africa and has the longest coast in the Mediterranean basin facing southern Europe. High rates of prevalence of viral hepatitis have been observed in various regions in Africa, but the prevalence in Libya is not well documented. We report on a large-scale nationwide study that evaluated the epidemiology of hepatitis B and hepatitis C in Libya and assessed the risk factors involved.
A cross-sectional study was carried out in 2008 on 65,761 individuals all over Libya. The country was divided into 12 regions according to the population density and sampling within each region was carried out under the supervision of the National Centre for Prevention of Infectious Diseases. Serum samples were collected from both males and females of all ages in both urban and rural areas and tested for HBsAg for hepatitis B and anti-HCV antibody for hepatitis C. Prevalence rates were determined in regions and in different groups and correlated with different demographic and risk factors involved in the spread of these viruses.
The prevalence of hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses varied regionally across the country. The overall prevalence of hepatitis B was 2.2% (95% CI 2.1%-2.3%) and was higher among males than females (1.4:1.0). Hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence was 1.2% (95% CI 1.1-1.3) and it increased gradually after the age of 30 years (0.7-0.9% for < 30 years; 3.6% for ≥ 60 years). Prevalence of HBsAg was 0.8-0.9% below the age of 10 years, and higher but similar in older age groups (2.3-2.7%). There was an association between literacy and prevalence of hepatitis, particularly for HCV. Hospital admission, surgical operation, blood transfusion, and intravenous drug use were the main risk factors, and they were associated independently with a higher prevalence rate of viral hepatitis.
Libya may be considered an area of low-intermediate endemicity for hepatitis B virus infection, with lower rates in young age groups, and an area of low endemicity for hepatitis C. The prevalence of hepatitis B and C across Libya is not homogeneous, with indications of the effect of the higher rates in some neighbouring countries. Libya should adopt full coverage national plans and guidelines to face the future consequences of viral hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C virus.