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March 20, 2019

Hepatitis C infection: does gender play a role?

Men make up the majority of hepatitis C cases, which may be a result of underlying population dynamics and difference in exposure to risk factors between men and women.

By GlobalData Healthcare

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that can have serious and potentially life-threatening consequences to the liver if left untreated.

Hepatitis C infection

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood-borne virus that can lead to both acute and chronic infection. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 400,000 people die each year from hepatitis C–related diseases such as liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

HCV infection often doesn’t have noticeable symptoms until after the liver has developed significant damage. This leads to cases going undiagnosed in the early stages of these diseases, and the only way to be certain if a person has hepatitis C is for them to be tested. Men make up the majority of hepatitis C cases, which may be a result of underlying population dynamics and difference in exposure to risk factors between men and women.

Hepatitis C infection: epidemiological forecast

According to GlobalData’s epidemiological forecast for HCV, in the nine major markets (9MM: the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, Japan, Brazil and urban China), the diagnosed prevalence of HCV varies from 0.13% in urban China to 1.02% in Italy for men and women of all ages.

In the 9MM combined, in 2015, men accounted for more than half of the diagnosed prevalent anti-HCV+ cases (anti-HCV+ includes patients who have tested positive for the presence of antibodies to HCV) with 3.4 million cases.

Hepatitis C infection: gender differences

The higher proportion of male cases of anti-HCV+ diagnosed prevalent cases was reflected in all markets except France and Spain, where the proportion of anti-HCV+ diagnosed cases was greater for women than men (approximately 60%).

In Brazil, the diagnosed prevalence of anti-HCV+ in men is approximately three times that in women (0.41% and 0.15%, respectively). The same pattern is reflected in the US and the UK.

These sex differences in the diagnosed prevalence of anti-HCV+ in the US, Germany, Italy, the UK, Japan, Brazil and urban China may be a result of differences in the level of exposure to risk factors associated with HCV infection.

It is possible that men are more likely to have a history of drug-related risk behaviours (needle use, needle sharing and use of injectable drugs) or engage in unprotected sex, thus increasing the probability of contracting hepatitis C.

The differences in the number of anti-HCV+ diagnosed prevalent cases across the sexes and markets may also be due to underlying demographic differences in each market, as well as a significant difference in sex-specific diagnosis rates.

Details about the trend analysis and other discussions of HCV epidemiology can be found in GlobalData’s EpiCast Report: Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) – Epidemiology Forecast to 2025 and in GlobalData’s EpiCast Model: Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) – Epidemiology Forecast to 2025.

The figure below highlights the sex distribution of diagnosed prevalent cases in the nine major markets in 2015.

Diagnosed prevalence of anti-HCV+, men, women, all ages, 2015, %

Source: GlobalData. Note: 5EU = France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK. 9MM = 5EU, the US, Japan, Brazil and urban China.

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