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J Med Virol. 2009 May;81(5):836-43. doi: 10.1002/jmv.21437.

Perinatal transmission of hepatitis C virus infection.

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Department of Paediatrics, University of Florence, Anna Meyer Children's Hospital, Florence, Italy.


In industrialized countries, hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common cause of chronic liver disease in children. Perinatal transmission is the leading cause of infection. Perinatal transmission is confined almost always to women with detectable HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the peripheral blood by the polymerase chain reaction but all children born to women with anti-HCV antibodies should be tested for HCV. Some but not all studies found that a high concentration of serum HCV RNA is associated with a higher risk of transmission. Maternal peripheral blood mononuclear cell infection by HCV, membrane rupture of longer than 6 hr before delivery, and procedures exposing the infant to maternal blood infected with HCV during vaginal delivery are associated with an increased risk of transmission. Maternal coinfection with HCV and human immunodeficiency virus, maternal history of intravenous drug use and of HCV infection of the sexual partner of the mother predict the risk of perinatal transmission and are dependent on the peripheral blood mononuclear cell infection by HCV. Delivery by Cesarean section is not recommended in pregnant women infected with HCV. Infected mothers can breast feed safely their infants if the nipples are not damaged. A previous delivery of a child infected perinatally with HCV does not increase the risk of transmission in subsequent pregnancies. Immunogenetic factors and HCV genotypes are not related to HCV perinatal transmission. Despite an increased understanding of the risk factors involved in perinatal transmission of HCV, to date little is known about the transmission mechanisms and timing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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