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Maternal-infant transmission of hepatitis C virus infection

Authors

  • Eve A. Roberts M.D., FRCPC,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, The Hospital for Sick Children; and the Departments of Paediatrics, Medicine, and Pharmacology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    • Room 8267, Black Family Foundation Wing, Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Ave., Toronto, Ontario M5G 1X8, Canada. fax: 416–813–4972
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  • Latifa Yeung

    1. Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition, The Hospital for Sick Children; and the Departments of Paediatrics, Medicine, and Pharmacology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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Abstract

Mother-to-infant transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is comparatively uncommon. The prevalence of antibody to HCV (anti-HCV) in pregnant women is 0.1% to 2.4%, although in some endemic areas it is much higher. The proportion of women with anti-HCV who have active infection with viremia is 60% to 70%. Transmission of HCV occurs only when serum HCV RNA is detectable and may be related to higher levels (above 106 copies per mL). The rate of mother-to-infant transmission is 4% to 7% per pregnancy in women with HCV viremia. Co-infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) increases the rate of transmission 4 to 5 fold. The actual time and mode of transmission are not known. Elective Cesarean section is not recommended for women with chronic HCV infection alone. The role of treatment to prevent transmission is limited by the fetal toxicity of currently available medications for hepatitis C. Breast feeding poses no important risk of HCV transmission if nipples are not traumatized and maternal hepatitis C is quiescent. Pregnant women at high risk for HCV infection should be screened for anti-HCV, and HCV RNA testing should be performed if anti-HCV is positive. Infants of women with hepatitis C should be tested for HCV RNA on two occasions, between the ages of 2 and 6 months and again at 18 to 24 months, along with serum anti-HCV. The natural history of mother-to-infant hepatitis C remains uncertain, especially the course in the first year of life when some infants appear to have spontaneous resolution. (HEPATOLOGY 2002;36:S106–S113).

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