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Maternal–Fetal Transmission of Hepatitis C Infection: What Is So Special About Babies?

Wen, Jessica W.*; Haber, Barbara A.

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition: March 2014 - Volume 58 - Issue 3 - p 278–282
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000258
Invited Review

ABSTRACT Children with hepatitis C virus infection often differ from adults regarding the rate of viral clearance, duration of infection, and the progression to cirrhosis. In the pediatric population, vertical transmission of hepatitis C virus infection from mother to infant is the most common route of infection. In the present review, we explore the factors that may influence the natural history of hepatitis C virus infection in children who acquire the infection through maternal–fetal transmission. There is particular focus on how viral diversity and the infant immune system may affect viral transmission. An enhanced understanding of maternal–fetal transmission of hepatitis C virus infection has the potential to affect effective drug and vaccine development for both children and adults.

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*Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Merck Sharp & Dohme, Philadelphia, PA.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Jessica W. Wen, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 34th St & Civic Center Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (e-mail:

Received 9 April, 2013

Accepted 19 November, 2013

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Website (

J.W. received grant support from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Clinical Effectiveness Fund. B.H. is an employee of Merck Sharp and Dohme Corp.

The other authors report no conflicts of interest.

© 2014 by European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology,