Introduction: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in hemodialysis (HD) patients are associated with adverse outcomes, especially after kidney transplantation.
Review: In the HD setting, cross-contamination to patients via environmental surfaces, supplies, equipment, multiple-dose medication vials and staff members is mainly responsible for both HBV and HCV transmission. The incidence and prevalence of HBV in HD centers have dropped markedly as a result of isolation strategy for HBsAg positive patients, the implementation of infection control measures and the introduction of HBV vaccine. The incidence and prevalence of HCV infection among HD patients remain higher than the corresponding general population. There is ongoing debate as to whether isolation of HCV infected patients is needed to combat high anti-HCV seroconversion rates. The current guidelines do not recommend isolation or the use of dedicated machines for HCV infected patients, and rely on strict adherence to infection control measures for the prevention of HCV transmission in the HD setting. Investigations of dialysis associated outbreaks of HCV infection indicate that transmission most likely occurs because of inadequate infection control practices. Routine screening of anti-HCV negative patients, with HCV-antibody testing, and monthly monitoring of ALT levels is recommended to monitor transmission within centers.
Conclusion: Prevention of transmission of HBV and HCV in the HD setting warrants a multi-faceted approach. Not enough stress can be placed on the importance of adequate infection control practices for the prevention of both infections. Prevention of HBV transmission is augmented by correct implementation of isolation strategies and the universal vaccination of susceptible patients.
Keywords: Hemodialysis; Hepatitis B Virus; Hepatitis C Virus; Infection Control; Isolation