Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has become a major problem within the human population, affecting individuals from everywhere, but especially from poor regions. At the moment, 130 to 170 million people worldwide are infected with this virus and it keeps increasing at a rate of approximately 3.5 million people per year. (1) It is estimated that about 0.2 to 26% of the general population in different countries are chronically infected by HCV. (2)(3)
The hepatitis C virus is an enveloped RNA virus. Given its characteristics, it was situated into a genus of its own known as Hepacivirus. At least six different persons can each be infected with a different genotype of the virus, but the difference in progression to cirrhosis or the usual clinical features is very small.
The only known reservoir for this virus is the human, although experiments have been conducted where it was transmitted to chimpanzees.
The primary mode of transmission is parenterally, meaning that the virus is not taken into the body via the digestive tract, but via blood transfusions or uptake of blood products coming from unscreened donors. Major methods of contagion consist of contaminated instruments and needles used in medical/dental procedures, traditional medicine, rituals like scarification or circumcision, tattooing, piercing and especially intravenous drug abuse. Mother-to-child transmission has been recorded, but appears very rare as a cause, along with sexual contact. (4)
The countries that have the highest