1*Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia †Merck Sharp & Dohme, Philadelphia, PA.
Children with hepatitis C virus infection often differ from adults regarding the rate of viral clearance, duration of infection, and the progression to cirrhosis. In the pediatric population, vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus infection from mother to infant is the most common route of infection. In the present review, we explore the factors that may influence the natural history of hepatitis C virus infection in children who acquire the infection through maternal-fetal transmission. There is particular focus on how viral diversity and the infant immune system may affect viral transmission. An enhanced understanding of maternal-fetal transmission of hepatitis C virus infection has the potential to affect effective drug and vaccine development for both children and adults.