Mother-to-Child Hepatitis C Transmission Twice As Likely Among Infant Girls As Boys, Study Says
Pregnant women living with hepatitis C are about twice as likely to transmit the virus to an infant girl as they are to a boy, according to a study published in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Reuters Health reports. Pier-Angelo Tovo from the Universita degli Studi di Torino in Turin, Italy, and colleagues examined 1,787 pregnant women living with hepatitis C and their infants at 33 centers in Europe and recorded a mother-to-child transmission rate of 6.2%. The researchers also found that elective delivery by caesarean section did not prevent infants from contracting the virus. In addition, breastfeeding, maternal history of injection drug use and premature birth were not significantly associated with higher rates of vertical transmission of hepatitis C, according to the study (Reuters Health, 12/15). Women co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C had a higher hepatitis C transmission rate -- 8.7% -- than the other women participating in the study -- 5.5% -- but the finding was not statistically significant (Tovo et al., Journal of Infectious Diseases, 12/1). The researchers said the higher rate of hepatitis C infection among infant girls suggests hormonal or genetic differences between girls and boys affect an infant's risk of contracting the virus. In an accompanying JID editorial, Palmer Beasley from the University of Texas School of Public Health said that the study's finding on gender differences is "interesting, provocative and worth further investigation." Beasley adds that the finding is consistant with recent observations regarding gender differences in vertical HIV transmission (Reuters Health, 12/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.