The report, published in the August issue of Gastroenterology, describes how a 50-year old man presented with jaundice, asthenia and fever in May 1999. He tested positive for hepatitis C virus, and 2 days later was referred to a unit for the management of acute hepatitis.
The man had no history of blood transfusion or intravenous drug use, and his wife tested negative for HCV antibody.
The patient tested negative for HIV virus, IgM anti-hepatitis A virus, IgM anti-hepatitis B core virus, cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus-excluding other possible causes for acute viral hepatitis.
"This example of hepatitis C transmission could have a major impact in sports such as rugby or boxing."
Dr Marc Bourlière
It was revealed that the patient had been involved in a fight with his nephew 2 months previously. The patient and his nephew had both sustained bleeding facial wounds during the incident. They then shared a handkerchief to clean up the blood.
In June 1999, the patient's nephew was tested for hepatitis C antibodies. He was found to be positive.
Genotyping and nucleotide sequencing of the hepatitis C virus in both fighters proved that the nephew had transmitted the virus to his uncle.
The two men had never lived together or shared razors, suggesting that punches or the shared handkerchief after the fight were almost certainly the route of transmission.
The usual route of hepatitis C virus is through direct percutaneous exposure to infected blood.
This report highlights the possibility of virus transmission during contact sports such as boxing and rugby. The researchers recommend that any bleeding sustained during these sports should be treated with single-use or disposable materials.