Preventing hepatitis C transmission from mothers to babies

Only half of women who are infected with HCV are identified by screening based on risk factors.


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In Canada, the seroprevalence rate of hepatitis C infection (HCV) in pregnancy is believed to be about 1%, which means around 3500 pregnant ladies who have HCV disease during pregnancy every year.

Vertical transmission rates go from 5% to 6% among HCV-monoinfected ladies to 10% among those with HIV co-infection. Practically 50% of ladies who are infected with HCV might be unaware of their infection and, hence, won’t proceed to be treated on time.

In a new study, scientists argue that the HCV transmission could largely be prevented with a universal screening of women who are pregnant and engagement in a plan for treatment either postpartum or preconception.

Drs. Chelsea Elwood, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of British Columbia, and Laura Sauve, BC Children’s Hospital, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC said, “We encourage all care providers to consider the reproductive implications of HCV, to consider HCV screening in pregnancy and referral for treatment of HCV. The time has come to move toward universal HCV screening in women who are pregnant, with initial prenatal investigations that are then repeated based on risk factors in the third trimester.”

“All providers of prenatal care should consider HCV screening, diagnosis, and referral to HCV treatment for women with HCV infection who are considering pregnancy. They should also counsel women who are pregnant about the potential for cure with new treatment and encourage them to seek treatment postpartum to prevent vertical transmission in future pregnancies. Achieving a 0% vertical transmission rate for HCV in Canada is possible, but it requires buy-in and action from a broad spectrum of health care providers and public health officials.”