TWO REPORTS on hepatitis virus type C (HCV) in this issue of JAMA, as well as recent articles elsewhere (N Engl J Med. 1989;321:1538-1539, 1494-1500, and 1501-1510), provide strong evidence that the long, frustrating search for the cause of most—if not all— of what has been called non-A, non-B (NANB) hepatitis may be over and that a better blood-screening assay to prevent tranfusion-associated NANB hepatitis may soon be available.
This so-called NANB hepatitis has accounted for a substantial proportion of acute and chronic liver disease in the United States. According to Miriam J. Alter, PhD, chief of hepatitis surveillance, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Atlanta, Ga, approximately 150 000 NANB hepatitis infections occur each year in this country, half of which produce biochemical evidence of chronic liver disease, with approximately 15 000 leading to chronic active hepatitis or cirrhosis.
In addition, the virus may be causally associated with hepatocellular carcinoma.