A team from Bari, Italy, investigated the prevalence of and risk factors for vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in HIV-negative pregnant women.
Between January 1995 and June 1997, 78 consecutive HCV-positive/HIV-negative women with their offspring entered this prospective study, from a cohort of 2447 HIV-negative pregnant women.
Risk factors for HCV were carefully sought, and HCV viral load and genotype were determined in all positive mothers.
The infants were tested for alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and HCV-RNA at birth and at 4, 8, 12, 18, and 24 months of age.
Eight of 60 (13%) infants born to HCV-RNA positive mothers acquired HCV infection, but only 2 (3%) were still infected by the end of follow-up.
|Predictors of HCV vertical transmission:|
- High maternal viral load
- Mothers belonging to HCV risk categories
| Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition |
It was found that infants' genotypes matched that of the mothers.
ALT levels were in the normal range in all study subjects throughout the follow-up.
The researchers found that high maternal viral load, possession of HCV risk factors, and history of blood transfusion were associated with increased risk of HCV vertical transmission.
Author O. Ceci, of the University of Bari, said on behalf of colleagues, "This long-term prospective study shows that, although vertical transmission from HIV-negative mothers occurs in 13% of cases, there is a high rate of spontaneous viral clearance (75%).
"High maternal viral load and mothers belonging to HCV risk categories were the only variables predictive of the vertical transmission," it was concluded.