Sexual Risk of HCV Transmission

Hepatitis C virus among high and low risk pregnant women in Dundee: unlinked anonymous testing: another study suggesting sexual risk of transmitting HCV
     BJOG 2001 Apr;108(4):365-70
Goldberg D, McIntyre PG, Smith R, Appleyard K, Dunlop J, Taylor A, Hutchinson S. Glasgow University Department of Public Health, Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health, UK.

To determine the prevalence of the hepatitis C virus among pregnant women, to gauge the non-injecting, particularly sexual, risk of them being hepatitis C virus infected and to assess the potential impact of selective antenatal screening.

Antenatal clinic attenders and women undergoing termination of pregnancy in 1997.

Ninewells Hospital, Dundee. DESIGN: Unlinked anonymous hepatitis C virus antibody
testing of residual sera from specimens sent to the virus laboratory for routine serological testing. The results were linked to non-identifying risk information.

Overall anti-hepatitis C virus prevalence was 0.6% (23/3,548). Prevalences among injecting drug users, non-injectors who had a sexual partner who injected, and those with neither risk respectively were 41% (7/17), 15% (5/33) and 0.3% (11/3,498). Relative risks for being an injector and a sexual partner of an injector respectively were 131 (95% CI 58-297) and 48 (95% CI 5-32). It is estimated that one of the 18 antenatal clinic attenders gave birth to an infected child.

Findings suggest that non-injecting partners of injectors may be at considerable risk of acquiring hepatitis C virus sexually. Efforts to promote the use of condoms among injectors and their sexual partners should be increased. Selective anti-hepatitis C virus screening of women who reported high risk behaviour would have failed to detect half the cases. Research to gauge the views of women of childbearing age on anti-hepatitis C virus testing is required.