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Clin Infect Dis. 1999 Nov;29(5):1327-9.

Low risk of vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus by breast milk.

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  • 1Institute for Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University Hospital Eppendorf, 20246 Hamburg, Germany.


To evaluate the risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission via breast milk, we collected 76 samples of breast milk from 73 chronically HCV-infected women and serum samples from their 76 perinatally HCV-exposed children. Enzyme immunoassay and strip immunoblot assay were used for detection of antibodies to HCV, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction analysis was used for detection of HCV RNA. None of the 76 samples of breast milk contained HCV RNA, whereas 37 (59.7%) of 62 mothers tested for HCV RNA had HCV viremia. Only 1 of the 76 breast-fed infants had evidence of HCV infection. Because HCV infection in this child was detected 1 month after birth, it seems unlikely that it was transmitted by breast-feeding. These results indicate that HCV infection in pregnant women should not be a contra-indication for breast-feeding.

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