Hepatitis C virus viremic rate in the Middle East and North Africa: Systematic synthesis, meta-analyses, and meta-regressions

<div><p>Objectives</p><p>To estimate hepatitis C virus (HCV) viremic rate, defined as the proportion of HCV chronically infected individuals out of all ever infected individuals, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).</p><p>Methods</p><p>Sources of data were systematically-gathered and standardized databases of the MENA HCV Epidemiology Synthesis Project. Meta-analyses were conducted using DerSimonian-Laird random-effects models to determine pooled HCV viremic rate by risk population or subpopulation, country/subregion, sex, and study sampling method. Random-effects meta-regressions were conducted to identify predictors of higher viremic rate.</p><p>Results</p><p>Analyses were conducted on 178 measures for HCV viremic rate among 19,593 HCV antibody positive individuals. In the MENA region, the overall pooled mean viremic rate was 67.6% (95% CI: 64.9–70.3%). Across risk populations, the pooled mean rate ranged between 57.4% (95% CI: 49.4–65.2%) in people who inject drugs, and 75.5% (95% CI: 61.0–87.6%) in populations with liver-related conditions. Across countries/subregions, the pooled mean rate ranged between 62.1% (95% CI: 50.0–72.7%) and 70.4% (95% CI: 65.5–75.1%). Similar pooled estimates were further observed by risk subpopulation, sex, and sampling method. None of the hypothesized population-level predictors of higher viremic rate were statistically significant.</p><p>Conclusions</p><p>Two-thirds of HCV antibody positive individuals in MENA are chronically infected. Though there is extensive variation in study-specific measures of HCV viremic rate, pooled mean estimates are similar regardless of risk population or subpopulation, country/subregion, HCV antibody prevalence in the background population, or sex. HCV viremic rate is a useful indicator to track the progress in (and coverage of) HCV treatment programs towards the set target of HCV elimination by 2030.</p></div>