Prevalence of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Hepatitis C in Those Age 60 and Older in a US Population Based Study.

Hsu FC, Starkebaum G, Boyko EJ, Dominitz JA.

Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center and the Arthritis and Gastroenterology Sections, Seattle, Washington, USA.

OBJECTIVE: A positive association between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has been reported in clinic based cross sectional studies. We investigated if RA and HCV are associated in a population based survey.

METHODS: Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, hepatitis C and RA status were determined for subjects >/= 60 years of age. RA was defined to be present when 3 of 6 American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria were met.

RESULTS: Of 6596 subjects, 1827 (27.7%) were excluded due to missing data. Of the remaining 4769, 196 subjects (4.1%) met our modified ACR criteria for probable RA: 63 tested positive for anti-HCV antibodies (1.3%) while 35 were HCV RNA positive (0.7%). Two subjects had both HCV antibodies and RA, while one subject was both HCV RNA positive and had RA. HCV antibody positivity was not associated with RA (OR 0.44, 95% CI 0.07-2.80). Similarly, HCV positivity by polymerase chain reaction was not associated with RA (OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.10-6.19).

CONCLUSION: These results argue against a potential role for HCV in the etiology of RA in the US population aged 60 years and over.

J Rheumatol 2003 Mar;30(3):455-8

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