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Posted 06 November 2008

Hepatitis C transmission not reduced by C-sections, says new study

Planned cesarean sections do not help to reduce the chances of a pregnant mother with Hepatitis C (HCV) transmitting the infection to her unborn baby, according to new scientific findings by the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science and the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin.

Hepatitis C is the most common cause of chronic viral infection in the Western World today. It affects an estimated 170 million people worldwide. It is a viral infection of the liver which is mainly transmitted through contact with contaminated blood or blood products.

Infant infection rates are linked to the number of mothers infected with the viral infection and the risk factors associated with the transmission of the infection to their unborn children in the womb.

The results of a new 5-year study of 559 mother-child pairs in Ireland, one of the largest such studies of its kind, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, show that vaginal delivery and planned cesarean among mothers infected with Hepatitis C display almost equal transmission rates of Hepatitis C from mother to child (4.2% and 3% respectively).

“The mode of delivery itself was not shown to have a significant influence on the transmission rate of hepatitis C from mother to child,” says Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe from the National Maternity Hospital and the UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, one of the co-authors of the report.

“The main risk factor associated with the vertical transmission of hepatitis C was the presence of detectable hepatitis C virus in the mother’s bloodstream, a condition where viruses enter the bloodstream and hence have access to the rest of the body.”

“Mothers who demonstrated detectable hepatitis C virus had a significantly higher transmission rate (7.1%) to their infants compared to the transmission rate (0%) for those in whom the hepatitis C virus was undetectable during pregnancy,” explains Professor McAuliffe.

“According to these new findings, if the Hepatitis C virus is undetectable antenatally despite the mother being antibody positive the patient can be reassured that the risk of vertical transmission to their child is minimal, and this is a significant development for patient counseling.”

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Hepatitis C transmission not reduced by C-sections, says new study
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