Question

If I'm infected with hepatitis C and not treated, how likely is the infection to become chronic?

Answer

The period right after you're infected with hepatitis C virus is known as the acute stage of infection. An estimated 30 percent of people with acute hepatitis C do not progress to the chronic stage of infection. Those who escape chronic hepatitis C are said to have achieved spontaneous viral clearance.

Unfortunately, there's no way to predict whether you'll be one of the lucky 30 percent. Even if doctors could make such a prediction, it wouldn't help most people with early hepatitis C because the acute infection rarely causes signs and symptoms.

To reach the 30 percent estimate, researchers have analyzed data from many studies of high-risk people, particularly injection drug users. Rates of spontaneous viral clearance vary somewhat from study to study, from as low as 15 percent to as high as 40. All, however, show that well over half of acute hepatitis C infections become chronic.

Further research may explain exactly how spontaneous hepatitis C virus clearance occurs, paving the way for treatment and vaccine development.

Last Updated: 07-13-2018
FAQ-20114795
content provided by mayoclinic.com
© 1998-2020 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.com," "Mayo Clinic Health Information," "Reliable information for a healthier life" and the triple-shield Mayo logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.