Overall vertical transmission of HCV, transmission net of clearance, and timing of transmission

A E Ades*, Fabiana Gordon, Karen Scott, Intira Jeannie Collins, Claire Thorne, Lucy Pembrey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Background 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, VT and clearance rates have not been estimated from the same datasets, and there is a lack of information on VT rates “net” of clearance.

Methods 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 RNA positives in samples tested within three days of birth, and differences between elective caesarean and non-elective caesarean deliveries.

Findings 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.

Conclusion 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.

Key points Taking account of infections that would have cleared spontaneously before detection, the rate of HCV vertical transmission is 7.2% (95%CrI 5.6-8.9) in mono-infected women, but transmission “net” of clearance is 3.1% (1.8-4.4) at 3 years, and 2.4% (1.1-4.1) at 5.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberciac270
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Early online date11 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Apr 2022


  • Hepatitis C virus
  • HCV
  • vertical transmission
  • spontaneous clearance
  • net transmission


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