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Rev Soc Bras Med Trop. 2009 May-Jun;42(3):239-44.

Hepatitis C: sexual or intrafamilial transmission? Epidemiological and phylogenetic analysis of hepatitis C virus in 24 infected couples.

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Hepatitis Laboratory, Infectious Diseases Departament, Medical School/USP, University of São Paulo, Rua Paraguassu 174/141, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


The role of sexual or intrafamilial transmission of hepatitis C is controversial. A phylogenetic analysis was performed on the non-structural region 5B of the hepatitis C virus (NS5B-HCV). High percentages of homology (mean of 98.3%) were shown between the couples. Twenty (83.3%) of the 24 men but only two of the women (8.3%) reported having had sexually transmitted diseases during their lives. The risk factors for HCV acquisition were blood transfusion (10 couples), use of illegal injected drugs (17), use of inhalants (15), acupuncture (5) and tattoos (5). The shared use of personal hygiene items included toothbrushes between six couples (25%), razor blades between 16 (66.7%), nail clippers between 21 (87.5%) and manicure pliers between 14 (58.3%). The high degree of similarity of the hepatitis C virus genome supports the hypothesis of hepatitis C virus transmission between these couples. The shared use of personal hygiene items suggests the possibility of intrafamilial transmission of infection.

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