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Overall vertical transmission of HCV, transmission
net of clearance, and timing of transmission.
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Clinical Infectious Diseases 11 April 2022

It is widely accepted that the risk of HCV vertical transmission (VT) is 5-6% in mono-infected 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.
We re-analysed 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 three days of birth, and differences between elective caesarean and non-elective caesarean deliveries.
Overall VT rates were 7.2% (95% credible interval 5.6-8.9) in mothers who were HIV negative and 12.1% (8.6-16.8) in HIV-co-infected women. The corresponding rates net of clearance at 5 years were 2.4% (1.1-4.1) and 4.1% (1.7-7.3). We estimated that 24.8% (12.1-40.8) of infections occur early in utero, 66.0% (42.5-83.3) later in utero, and 9.3% (0.5-30.6) during delivery.
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 to prevent or treat pediatric HCV infection, and strategies to manage children exposed in utero.

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