Vertical Transmission of HCV: The Next Big Treatment Frontier

Novel antiviral therapies with overwhelmingly positive sustained virologic response rates have dominated headlines in hepatitis C virus for the past few years, but many experts said eradication efforts may never completely succeed until the clinical community deals with vertical transmission of the disease.

There may be as many as 11 million children with HCV in the world, according to Kathleen B. Schwarz, MD, professor of pediatrics, director of the Pediatric Liver Center at Johns Hopkins and president of the Federation of International Societies of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.

Philip Rosenthal, MD, professor of pediatrics and surgery, director of pediatric clinical research, pediatric hepatology and liver transplant research and pediatric hepatology at the University of California, San Francisco, pushed that number higher, suggesting that as many as 7,500 new cases occur from vertical transmission each year in the United States. “Spontaneous clearance of the virus can be seen in up to 40% of infants infected by vertical transmission, but only in 6% to 12% of older children with HCV,” he told HCV Next. “A small subset of children — between 20% and 25% — can have more aggressive disease with evidence of cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma.” 

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