To determine the rate of vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV), we prospectively studied 45 babies born to anti-HCV-positive women with or without concomitant infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). We performed a second-generation recombinant immunoblotting assay, alanine transaminase (ALT) evaluation, and HCV-RNA testing on sera from 27 infants of HCV+, HIV- mothers and 18 babies of HCV+, HIV+ women, at birth and thereafter. After birth, HCV antibodies progressively disappeared within 12 months in all children but one, whose mother was HCV+, HIV+; this child was the only one who showed detectable levels of HCV-RNA and abnormal ALT values throughout the follow-up (range, 12 to 27 months). Viremia was persistently negative, and ALT levels were continuously normal in the remaining infants, showing that "seronegative" infection with HCV was absent in both groups. Clearance of passively acquired anti-HCV antibodies was found to be slower among babies born to HIV+ mothers (22.3% vs. 3.8% at 12 months, P = .03) and children whose mothers showed three or four anti-HCV reactivities by immunoblotting maintained anti-HCV for longer periods compared with babies born to mothers with one or two anti-HCV reactivities (P = .0001). Seventeen of 27 babies born to HCV+, HIV- mothers were breast-fed, and none of them was infected, confirming the apparent safety for HCV of breast milk. In summary, according to our study, vertical transmission of HCV is an infrequent event, and the presence of HIV in the mother is not an important co-factor for transmission of HCV infection.