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J Hepatol. 1996 Aug;25(2):125-8.

Intrafamily transmission of hepatitis C virus: sexual and non-sexual contacts.

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Hepatology Section Hospital General University, Valencia, Spain.



As a high number of patients with antibodies to hepatitis C (anti-HCV) do not have a known history of parenteral acquisition, other non-parenteral means of hepatitis C virus transmission must be studied. We investigated 1451 household contacts of 535 anti-HCV positive, human immunodeficiency virus-negative index patients.


Overall, the prevalence of anti-HCV in household contacts was 4.5%. Thirty (7.6%) out of the 394 heterosexual stable partners were anti-HCV positive as compared to 35 (3.3%) out of 1057 non-sexual contacts (p < 0.01). The prevalence of anti-HCV was lowest in children of the index cases (1.8%). In this group, the prevalence of anti-HCV was 3% (10/330) when the mother was the index case, as opposed to 0.6% (2/328) when the father was the index case (p < 0.05). The prevalence of anti-HCV increased with age, being highest (18.6%) in family contacts older than 60 years.


Transmission of hepatitis C virus may occur among household contacts of anti-HCV positive patients. Sexual contact or the use of non-disposable medical material in the past might explain the higher prevalence of anti-HCV found in sexual partners and in family contacts older than 60 years of age. Anti-HCV screening should be performed in family contacts of anti-HCV positive patients, particularly in those contacts older than 20.

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