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J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2004 Dec;19(12):1357-62.

Long-term outcome of vertically acquired and post-transfusion hepatitis C infection in children.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Clinical Nutrition, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.



To determine the natural history of perinatally acquired hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, clinical and laboratory outcomes among 31 children with HCV infection were retrospectively reviewed. Fifteen children had acquired HCV by blood transfusion (BT) prior to 6 months of age and 16 had vertically acquired (VT) HCV.


Demographic data, clinical symptoms and signs, liver biochemistry, HCV antibody, HCV-RNA and liver histology were evaluated.


Mean age at last visit was 13.0 years (range 9.0-16.8 years) in the BT group and 8.6 years (range 0.5-18.1 years) in the VT group. There were no abnormal clinical findings of chronic liver disease in either group. Estimated HCV-RNA clearance rate was 19%, with no significant difference between the groups. In HCV-RNA-negative children (n = 6), two lost anti-HCV antibody and two developed indeterminate anti-HCV antibody results, while all HCV-RNA-positive children (n = 25) remained both anti-HCV antibody positive and HCV-RNA positive throughout follow up. The alanine aminotransferase level was significantly higher in the VT group than in the BT group during the first 5 years of life. Liver biopsy, which was carried out in four children, revealed mild to moderate fibrosis and/or necroinflammatory activity, but no cirrhosis.


Outcomes among children with HCV acquired in infancy demonstrate asymptomatic and slowly progressive disease, at least for the initial decade of infection. Mode of acquisition appears to have a limited impact on outcomes, with similar viral clearance and anti-HCV antibody seroreversion rates in vertical and transfusion acquired infection.

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