The prevalence of antibody to hepatitis A virus (HAV) in a group of socially and economically disadvantaged Spanish gypsy children was compared to that of a group of non-gypsy middle-class children. The study included 438 children, 73 gypsies (38 girls and 35 boys, mean age 8·5 years, age range 2–16 years) and 365 non-gypsy controls, randomly selected by age. The presence of anti-HAV was investigated using ELISA.
Among the gypsy children, 82% had antibodies to HAV compared with 9·3% of the children in the control group. The unfavourable living conditions of the gypsy population (e.g. homes with poor sanitary conditions, overcrowding) may explain the high prevalence of HAV infection. These findings underline the need for specific action which targets disadvantaged populations.