The incidence of hepatitis C virus infection in reproductive-age women has doubled between 2006 and 2014 while the number of acute cases increased more than threefold, according to data published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Researchers analyzed data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (
Around half of all acute infections were in non-Hispanic white women, and of the 2,069 women with available risk information, 63% acknowledged injection drug use ( ).
The analysis also found 1,859 cases of hepatitis C infection in children aged 2-13 years. According to the Quest data, the proportion of children with current hepatitis C infection was 3.2-fold higher in children aged 2-3 years than in those aged 12-13 years.
Commenting on this age difference, Kathleen N. Ly, MPH, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and her coauthors noted that it may have been the result of decreased testing over time in children already known to have chronic hepatitis C infection, or could be caused by spontaneous remission of infection, which is more common in infants and children than in adults.
The rate of infection among pregnant women tested for hepatitis C virus between 2011 and 2014 was 0.73%, which the authors calculated would mean that overall, 29,000 women with hepatitis C virus infection gave birth during that period across the United States. Based on data from a recent systematic review and meta-analysis, which found a likely mother-to-child transmission rate of 5.8/100 live births, they estimated that 1,700 infants were born with hepatitis C infection during that period.
“In contrast, only about 200 childhood cases per year are reported to the NNDSS, which may suggest a need for wider screening for HCV in pregnant women and their infants, as is recommended for HIV and hepatitis B virus,” the authors wrote. “However, recommendations for screening in pregnant women and clearer testing guidelines for infants born to HCV-infected mothers do not exist at this time.”
The study was supported by the CDC. One author was an employee of Quest Diagnostics, but no other conflicts of interest were declared.