Vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus in low-risk pregnant women

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 1996 Feb;15(2):116-20. doi: 10.1007/BF01591483.


To assess the prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in pregnant women and the rate of vertical transmission in infected mothers belonging to a low-risk group, 1,388 women were tested for HCV antibody at delivery. Twenty-five anti-HCV-positive women with no apparent source of HCV exposure were recruited. A reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and a new quantitative branched DNA-based signal amplification assay (bDNA) were used to detect HCV RNA. The rate of anti-HCV positivity in pregnant women was 2.5% (36 of 1,388). Of the 25 cohort mothers, 18 (72%) were positive for HCV RNA by RT-PCR, 13 of whom were also positive by the bDNA assay (sensitivity 72.2%). Of the 25 infants of low-risk mothers tested at birth, 22 were anti-HCV positive, two were weakly reactive, one was negative, and none was viremic. Neither active humoral immunoresponse nor HCV RNA was detected in any of the infants over a period of 12 months. These data suggest a relatively high prevalence of anti-HCV in unselected pregnant women and a poor efficiency of vertical transmission of HCV in a low-risk population, irrespective of the viral burden of the mother-to-be.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Base Sequence
  • Cohort Studies
  • DNA Primers
  • Female
  • Hepacivirus / isolation & purification*
  • Hepatitis C / congenital
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C / immunology
  • Hepatitis C / transmission*
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / analysis
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Maternally-Acquired / immunology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical* / statistics & numerical data
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / immunology*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • Serologic Tests


  • DNA Primers
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies
  • Oligonucleotide Probes
  • RNA, Viral