1Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol Medical School, Bristol, United Kingdom.
2Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
3Population, Policy and Practice Research and Teaching Department, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom.
4Department of Medical Statistics, Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.
5Université Côte d'Azur, Public Health Department, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice, Nice, France.
6Children's Health Ireland at Crumlin and Temple Street, Dublin, Ireland.
7Meyer Children's Hospital and Department Neurofarba, University of Florence, Firenze, Italy.
Background: It is widely accepted that the risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) vertical transmission (VT) is 5%-6% in monoinfected women, and that 25%-40% of HCV infection clears spontaneously within 5 years. However, there is no consensus on how VT rates should be estimated, and there is a lack of information on VT rates "net" of clearance.
Methods: We reanalyzed data on 1749 children in 3 prospective cohorts to obtain coherent estimates of overall VT rate and VT rates net of clearance at different ages. Clearance rates were used to impute the proportion of uninfected children who had been infected and then cleared before testing negative. The proportion of transmission early in utero, late in utero, and at delivery was estimated from data on the proportion of HCV RNA positive within 3 days of birth, and differences between elective cesarean and nonelective cesarean deliveries.
Results: Overall VT rates were 7.2% (95% credible interval [CrI], 5.6%-8.9%) in mothers who were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) negative and 12.1% (95% CrI, 8.6%-16.8%) in HIV-coinfected women. The corresponding rates net of clearance at 5 years were 2.4% (95% CrI, 1.1%-4.1%), and 4.1% (95% CrI, 1.7%-7.3%). We estimated that 24.8% (95% CrI, 12.1%-40.8%) of infections occur early in utero, 66.0% (95% CrI, 42.5%-83.3%) later in utero, and 9.3% (95% CrI, 0.5%-30.6%) during delivery.
Conclusions: Overall VT rates are about 24% higher than previously assumed, but the risk of infection persisting beyond age 5 years is about 38% lower. The results can inform design of trials of interventions to prevent or treat pediatric HCV infection, and strategies to manage children exposed in utero.