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Study: Too few infants exposed to hepatitis C are screened :

May 2, 2018

Rates of pregnant women infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are on the rise, but few of their infants are being screened for the infection, researchers have found.

Each year, about 2,700 to 4,000 children are diagnosed with HCV infection, and 80% of those who acquired it perinatally will develop a chronic infection, according to the study “Hepatitis C Virus Screening Among Children Exposed During Pregnancy” (Chappell CA, et al. Pediatrics. May 2, 2018,

The Academy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other expert groups recommend children of infected mothers receive HCV antibody testing at or after 18 months of age.

“Delays in diagnosis could lead to delays in appropriate referrals and curative treatment or irreversible liver disease, such as cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma,” authors wrote.

To see how closely screening recommendations are followed, researchers looked at data on nearly 88,000 women who delivered babies at Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center between 2006 and 2014, of whom 1.2% had an HCV infection.

The rate of HCV infection among pregnant women increased 60% during the study, which researchers attributed to the opioid epidemic. Compared to uninfected women, those with HCV were more likely to be under 30, white, insured by Medicaid and have opiate use disorder.

Of the 323 infants of infected mothers who received well-child care in the same hospital system, about 30% were tested for HCV, according to the study. Roughly 8.4% of those tested had evidence of perinatal transmission.

The low rates of testing may be due in part to the mothers’ diagnoses not having been transferred to their children’s records, the study said. Some women may not have been aware they were infected, so authors recommended universal screening during pregnancy.

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