, Volume 167, Issue 2, pp 219-224,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 12 Apr 2007

Hepatitis C virus infection acquired in childhood

Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection occurs less frequently in children than in adult patients, and the natural history, prognosis, and clinical significance of HCV infection in children are poorly defined. We report here a descriptive follow-up of the clinical course, biochemical data, and viral markers observed in 37 children with anti-HCV. Ten patients included in the study tested persistently negative for serum HCV-RNA (group 1) and 27 patients tested persistently positive (group 2). In group 1, serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) was normal in all patients, while two patients had non-organ-specific autoantibodies. In group 2, serum ALT was elevated in 13 of 27 patients, and five patients had non-organ-specific autoantibodies. HCV genotype 1a and 1b were the most prevalent among HCV-RNA-positive patients. Twenty liver biopsies were carried out on 17 patients in our series (mean evolution time, 11.2 years; range, 3–21 years). The liver specimens showed mild necroinflammatory changes in most patients, and fibrosis was absent or low grade. Two HCV-RNA-positive patients became persistently HCV-RNA negative. Of the 26 children investigated, 7 (one in group 1, six in group 2) had a co-infection with hepatitis G virus. Conclusion Most children chronically infected with HCV were asymptomatic and presented only mild biochemical evidence of hepatic injury. Autoimmunity in the form of non-organ-specific autoantibodies was common. HCV in children induced mild changes in the liver with a low level of fibrosis and at a low rate of progression.