There appears to be very little good research to truely evaluate the risk of HCV transmission from breastfeeding. However, several factors when considered together suggest HCV can be transmitted by breastmilk. HCV has been found in breastmilk. The study below suggests the risk for HCV transmission by breastfeeding may increase as HCV viral load increases. HIV can be transmitted through breastfeeding. And HCV replication is higher than HIV replication.


Breastfeeding and hepatitis C virus (HCV): the need for a careful appraisal


Voyer M, Nobre R, Magny JF.

Institut de puericulture de Paris, 26, boulevard Brune, 75014 Paris, France.


Arch Pediatr 2001 Jan;8(1):66-77


We review the available data on the possible role of breast-feeding in hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission to infants of HCV-RNA-positive mothers. Current knowledge about HCV excretion through breast milk, HCV infection of breast-fed infants by mothers contaminated after delivery, and vertical transmission risk to infants breast-fed by chronic HCV viremic mothers are presented. Vertical transmission risk by breast-feeding HCV-RNA-positive mothers is unclear: no study has been performed with the aim and the required methodology to evaluate HCV transmission risk related to breast-feeding duration. Recommendations to HCV-RNA-positive mothers who wish to breast-feed their infant are discussed in light of present knowledge about HCV secretion in breast milk, mother-to-infant HCV transmission, and historical records on vertical transmission of other viruses to infants breast-fed by their viremic mothers.



Follow-up of transmission of hepatitis C to babies of human immunodeficiency virus-negative women: the role of breast-feeding in transmission


Ruiz-Extremera A, Salmeron J, Torres C, De Rueda PM, Gimenez F, Robles C, Miranda MT.

Pediatrics Department, San Cecilio Hospital, Granada, Spain.


Pediatr Infect Dis J 2000 Jun;19(6):511-516


BACKGROUND: The studies on hepatitis C virus (HCV) vertical transmission, the effect of potential risk factors and the role of breast-feeding have reported conflicting results. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Seventy-three infants of 63 anti-HCV-positive and anti-HIV-negative mothers were studied from 1993 to 1999 in the south of Spain. The mean period of follow-up in children was 29.2 +/- 19 months (range, 8 to 76 months); 6 (8%) children were lost to follow-up. Breast milk was studied for HCV-RNA in 68 samples of 35 mothers.


RESULTS: Alanine aminotransferase was high in 19 (26%) and HCV-RNA was positive in 46 (63%) pregnant woman. Breast milk HCV-RNA was negative in nonviremic mothers and positive in 20% of the viremic mothers. The overall rate of vertical HCV transmission was 11.9% (n = 8) (95% confidence interval, 6 to 23%) if HCV-RNA was positive one or more times, but only 1.5% (n = 1) (95% confidence interval, 0.1 to 9%) if HCV-RNA was permanently positive. Seven HCV-infected children did not develop antibodies to HCV, and they had a spontaneous clearance of the virus. A 10-month-old baby was HCV-RNA-positive from birth to the end of the follow-up. The genotype in each of the infants was consistent with that of their mother. The rate of HCV transmission was higher for infants of mothers with higher HCV viremia (P < 0.01) and also for infants whose mothers were HCV-RNA-positive in breast milk (P < 0.05). There were no statistically significant differences between other risk factors.


CONCLUSION: The presence of transitory viremia without seroconversion indicates that the vertical transmission of HCV is not important. This could be related to the viral charge and ingestion of milk of HCV-RNA-positive mothers. However, to advise avoidance of maternal breast-feeding, it would be necessary to conduct larger studies.


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