The aim of the study was to evaluate if and how varicella prevalence has changed in Italy. In particular a seroprevalence study was performed, comparing it to similar surveys conducted in pre-immunization era. During 2013–2014, sera obtained from blood samples taken for diagnostic purposes or routine investigations were collected in collaboration with at least one laboratory/center for each region, following the approval of the Ethics Committee. Data were stratified by sex and age. All samples were processed in a national reference laboratory by an immunoassay with high sensitivity and specificity. Statutory notifications, national hospital discharge database and mortality data related to VZV infection were analyzed as well. A total of 3707 sera were collected and tested. In the studied period both incidence and hospitalization rates decreased and about 5 deaths per year have been registered. The seroprevalence decreased in the first year of life in subjects passively protected by their mother, followed by an increase in the following age classes. The overall antibody prevalence was 84%. The comparison with surveys conducted with the same methodology in 1996–1997 and 2003–2004 showed significant differences in age groups 1–19 y. The study confirms that in Italy VZV infection typically occurs in children. The impact of varicella on Italian population is changing. The comparison between studies performed in different periods shows a significant increase of seropositivity in age class 1–4 years, expression of vaccine interventions already adopted in some regions.
- Immunology and Allergy