Prospective cohort study of mother-to-infant infection and clearance of hepatitis C in rural Egyptian villages

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Abstract

Although persistent transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) from infected mothers to their infants is reported in 4–8%, transient HCV perinatal infection also occurs. This prospective cohort study determined perinatal HCV infection- and early and late clearance-rates in 1,863 mother-infant pairs in rural Egyptian villages. This study found 15.7% and 10.9% of pregnant women had HCV antibodies (anti-HCV) and HCV-RNA, respectively. Among 329 infants born of these mothers, 33 (10.0%) tested positive for both anti-HCV and HCV-RNA 2 months following birth—29 (12.5%) having HCV-RNA positive mothers and 4 (with transient infections) having mothers with only anti-HCV. Fifteen remained HCV-RNA positive at one and/or 2 years (persistent infections), while 18 cleared both virus and antibody by 1 year (transient infections). Among the 15 persistent cases, 7 cleared their infections by 2 or 3 years. At 2- to 6- and at 10- to 12-month maternally acquired anti-HCV was observed in 80% and 5% of infants, respectively. Four perinatally infected and one transiently infected infant were confirmed to be infected by their mothers by the sequence similarity of their viruses. Viremia was 155-fold greater in mothers of infants with persistent than mothers of infants with transient infections. Maternal-infant transmission of HCV is more frequent than generally reported. However, both early and late clearance of infection frequently occurs and only 15 (4.6%) and 8 (2.4%) infants born of HCV-RNA positive mothers had detectable HCV-RNA at one and 2–3 years of age. Investigating how infants clear infection may provide important information about protective immunity to HCV. J. Med. Virol. 81:1024–1031, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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