There is evidence that hepatitis C virus (HCV) may be vertically transmitted from infected mothers to their children. To test this hypothesis, we prospectively studied 10 pregnant women at high risk from parenterally or sexually transmitted diseases with the polymerase chain reaction. HCV RNA was found in 8 newborn babies delivered by women who were anti-HCV seropositive, and persisted for 2-19 months of follow-up. Anti-HCV detected in 7 infants cleared by 9 months and remained undetectable thereafter. Serum alanine aminotransferase was raised in 3 infants. The findings provide evidence of vertical transmission of HCV and suggest that perinatal infection may initiate a silent disease process or chronic carrier state.
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