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J Paediatr Child Health. 2001 Jun;37(3):244-6.

Risk of hepatitis C virus infection in multiply transfused premature neonates.

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  • 1Department of Neonatal Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia.



Reports from around the world indicate that multiply transfused patients are at increased risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, with reported rates of between 4% and 44%. Such reports are mostly of haematological and renal patients. As recipients of blood products in the newborn period, premature infants share this risk, but there is little information regarding their risk.


To assess the risk of HCV infection in children who, as premature neonates, received multiple blood products prior to the introduction of screening of donated blood for HCV.


Premature infants born between January 1985 and January 1990 who had attended our high-risk follow-up clinic were selected on the basis of the number of transfusions of blood, platelets or fresh frozen plasma they received in the newborn period. Ethical approval to offer HCV testing to parents was obtained from the Central Sydney Area Health Service Ethics Review Committee. Parents of infants who received three or more transfusions were then contacted by mail with the approved letter explaining the study, and offered HCV testing. Detection of anti-HCV antibodies was undertaken using second, and later third generation enzyme immunoassay kits. Samples which were found to be 'indeterminate' were tested using a Wellcozyme HCV western blot assay (Murex Diagnostics Ltd, Datford, UK). Hepatitis C virus-ribonucleic acid (RNA) was detected using an 'in-house' polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. Alanine transaminase (ALT) was also measured, with values above 55 U/L considered abnormal.


Consent was obtained for 45 children (25 males, 20 females). The mean (+/- SEM) gestational age and weight of the children at birth was 26.7 +/- 0.2 weeks and 938 +/- 27 g, respectively. The children received 198 transfusions of blood products, an average of 4.4 U per child. All of the infants except for one were negative for anti-HCV antibodies. One infant was 'indeterminate' (low positive on third generation test but negative on second generation test), but proved negative subsequently on both western blot and PCR testing. HCV-RNA was not detected in any of the infants on PCR testing. All of the samples had normal ALT values, the mean being 16 U/L (range 8-52).


None of the children consenting to this study had evidence of current HCV infection. Because of the sample size, we were not able to estimate the true risk of infection from this study, except that the upper limit for the risk is about 1/200 per transfused blood sample.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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