Low incidence of hepatitis C virus transmission between spouses: A prospective study

Authors

  • Jia-Horng Kao,

    1. Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Hepatitis Research Center, National Taiwan University College of Medicine and National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
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  • Chun-Jen Liu,

    1. Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Hepatitis Research Center, National Taiwan University College of Medicine and National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
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  • Pei-Jer Chen,

    1. Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Hepatitis Research Center, National Taiwan University College of Medicine and National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
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  • Wendy Chen,

    1. Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Hepatitis Research Center, National Taiwan University College of Medicine and National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
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  • Ming-Yang Lai,

    1. Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Hepatitis Research Center, National Taiwan University College of Medicine and National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
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  • Ding-Shinn Chen

    1. Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine and Hepatitis Research Center, National Taiwan University College of Medicine and National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
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Correspondence: Prof.D-SChen Hepatitis Research Center, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan. Email: dschen@ha.mc.ntu.edu.tw

Abstract

Background: Interspousal transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been documented; however, the annual risk of interspousal transmission remains unclear.

Methods: A long-term prospective study to define the risk of interspousal transmission of HCV was conducted. One hundred and twelve index patients with chronic hepatitis C and their anti-HCV seronegative spouses were enrolled.

Results: The mean follow-up period was 45.9 months. Antibodies to HCV (anti-HCV) and HCV-RNA were tested for in each seronegative spouse every year. Seroconversion of anti-HCV occurred in only one spouse, 2 years after enrolment, with a concomitant acute hepatitis. This subject and his spouse were infected with HCV genotype 1b. Nucleotide sequence comparison of the hypervariable region of their HCV genomes showed a homology of 98%. Further phylogenetic analysis suggested that they had virtually the same isolate. Accordingly, the annual risk of interspousal transmission of HCV infection was 0.23% per year.

Conclusions: These findings suggest a low incidence of interspousal transmission of HCV; however, the risk may be cumulative and such couples should be educated to avoid HCV infection from their spouses.

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