Hepatitis C: Risk of a Haircut
To the Editor: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has a
prevalence of 1.8% in the United States. The mode of acquisition of
HCV is unclear in nearly 40% of patients with chronic HCV
infection. Various social practices are currently under scrutiny,
including sharing razors, snorting cocaine through the same straw
another person has used, and sexual practices (1).
We questioned whether a haircut that includes a trim of the
sideburns and back of the neck using a straight razor might
lacerate the skin and thereby spread hepatitis C. We obtained the
fluid used in five different male hairdresser salons to "sterilize"
the cutthroat blade after its use to trim the neck hairs and
sideburns. The five fluids were negative for HCV RNA by reverse
transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) (2). The fluids
were then deliberately "spiked" with 0.1 ml of 1:10 diluted serum
that contained HCV. The serum had been obtained from a patient who
had chronic HCV infection, as determined by a positive result on
PCR testing for HCV RNA. This qualitative test was considered to be
more sensitive (it detects >100 viral equivalents/mL) than the
HCV branched-DNA quantitative assay (which detects >200,000
viral equivalents/mL). By use of RT-PCR, HCV RNA was detected at 6
and 24 hours and at 7 days.
The antiseptic fluids used to clean the razor did not destroy
the viral RNA. We wonder whether the routine male haircut may be a
risk factor for HCV infection.
Norman Gitlin, MD
Frederick S. Nolte, MD
Michael Weiss, MD
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, GA 30322
Author: Gitlin N, Nolte FS, Weiss M, Emory University School of
Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322
Source: Ann Intern Med 126 (5): 410-411 (1997)
1. Conry-Cantilena C, Van Raden M, Gibble J, Melpolder J,
Obaid-Shakil A, Viladomiv L, et al. Routes of infection, viremia
and liver disease in blood donors found to have hepatitis C virus
infection. N Engl J Med. 1996;334:1691-6.
2. Nolte FS, Thurmond C, Fried MW. Preclinical evaluation of
amplicor hepatitis C virus test fir detection of hepatitis C virus
RNA. J Clin Microbiol. 1995;33:1775-8.
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