Failure to Test and Identify Perinatally Infected Children Born to Hepatitis C Virus-Infected Women

Clin Infect Dis. 2016 Apr 15;62(8):980-5. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciw026. Epub 2016 Jan 20.


Background: Vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common route of pediatric HCV infection. Approximately 5% of children born to HCV-infected mothers develop chronic infection. Recommendations employ risk-based HCV testing of pregnant women, and screening children at a young age. This study assesses testing rates of children born to mothers tested HCV-positive in a major US city with a high burden of HCV infection.

Methods: HCV surveillance data reported to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health are housed in the Hepatitis Registry. Additional tests, including negative results, were retrospectively collected. HCV data were matched with 2011-2013 birth certificates of children aged ≥20 months to identify mothers tested HCV-positive and screened children. The observed perinatal HCV seropositivity rate was compared to the expected rate (5%).

Results: A total of 8119 females aged 12-54 years tested HCV-positive and in the Hepatitis Registry. Of these, 500 (5%) had delivered ≥1 child, accounting for 537 (1%) of the 55 623 children born in Philadelphia during the study period. Eighty-four (16%) of these children had HCV testing; 4 (1% of the total) were confirmed cases. Twenty-three additional children are expected to have chronic HCV infection, but were not identified by 20 months of age.

Conclusions: These findings illustrate that a significant number of women giving birth in Philadelphia test positive for HCV and that most of their at-risk children remain untested. To successfully identify all HCV-infected children and integrate them into HCV-specific care, practices for HCV screening of pregnant women and their children should be improved.

Keywords: hepatitis C; pediatric hepatitis C; perinatal; prenatal screening; vertical transmission.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis*
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C / transmission*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / transmission
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / virology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical* / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Philadelphia / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis*
  • Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult