Most Children Born to Hepatitis C-Positive Mothers Don't Get Tested

January 26, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick

Vertical transmission, or the spread of infection from mother to baby during childbirth, is the most common way that children get hepatitis C. However, it turns out that these children are rarely tested for the disease.

Vertical transmission, or the spread of infection from mother to baby during childbirth, is the most common way that children get hepatitis C. However, it turns out that these children are rarely tested for the disease.

About 5% of children born to mothers with hepatitis C end up developing the chronic condition themselves. Researchers from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health investigated the testing rate of children born to infected mothers and documented the analysis in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The team looked at 8,119 women with hepatitis C, ages 12 to 54. From this cohort, 500 women gave birth to at least one child from 2011 to 2013. A total of 55,623 children were born in Philadelphia during this time span, and 537 of them (1%) were born to mothers with hepatitis C.

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Out of the 537 kids, only 84 (16%) were tested for hepatitis C — four of which ended up being confirmed cases. Based on those numbers, the researchers believe that an additional 24 children in the group have chronic hepatitis C, but they were not tested within 20 months of age.

This is only the tip of the iceberg for uncovering hepatitis C testing practices, but it’s fair to say that if these are only the findings in Philadelphia, there’s many more infected children who could be getting treatment.

“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,” the authors advised.

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