Background: The goal of the present study was to assess risk factors for perinatal hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission and the natural history of infection among HCV-infected infants.
Methods: In a cohort study, 244 infants born to HCV-positive mothers were followed from birth until age > or =12 months. Maternal serum was collected at enrollment and delivery; infant serum was collected at birth and at 8 well-child visits. Testing included detection of antibody to HCV, detection of HCV RNA (qualitative and quantitative), and genotyping. HCV-infected infants were followed annually until age 5 years.
Results: Overall, 9 of 190 (4.7% [95% confidence interval (CI), 2.3%-9.1%]) infants born to mothers who were HCV RNA positive at delivery became infected, compared with 0 of 54 infants born to HCV RNA-negative mothers (P=.10). Among HCV RNA-positive mothers, the rate of transmission was 3.8% (95% CI, 1.7%-8.1%) from the 182 who were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) negative, compared with 25.0% (95% CI, 4.5%-64.4%) from the 8 who were HIV positive (P<.05). Three infected infants resolved their infection (i.e., became HCV RNA negative). In multivariate analysis restricted to HCV RNA-positive mothers, membrane rupture > or =6 h (odds ratio [OR], 9.3 [95% CI, 1.5-179.7]) and internal fetal monitoring (OR, 6.7 [95% CI, 1.1-35.9]) were associated with transmission of HCV to infants.
Conclusion: If duration of membrane rupture and internal fetal monitoring are confirmed to be associated with transmission, interventions may be possible to decrease the risk of transmission.