All infants and children perinatally exposed to the hepatitis C virus (HCV) should be tested and, if necessary, treated, according to new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In utero–exposed infants should be tested at 2-6 months of life, much earlier than the current strategy of testing at 18 months.
HCV infection, which can lead to liver fibrosis and cirrhosis, liver failure, hepatic cancer, and transplant, will develop in 6%-7% of all perinatally exposed infants and children. Curative therapy with direct-acting antivirals can be administered starting at age 3, the CDC noted in Morbidity and Mortality Week Report (MMWR).
About 70% of children 18 months and older are not being tested with the current strategy of anti-HCV testing.
This current MMWR report supplements the 2020 CDC recommendations for adult HCV screening, which includes universal screening among pregnant persons during each pregnancy.
The new recommendations
Perinatally exposed infants should receive a nucleic acid amplification test for HCV RNA at 2-6 months of age to identify those who might develop chronic HCV infection if not treated.
Those with detectable HCV RNA should be managed in consultation with an expert in pediatric HCV.
Infants with undetectable HCV RNA do not require further follow-up unless clinically warranted.
“Testing perinatally exposed infants beginning at age 2 months with a NAT for HCV RNA is cost-effective and allows for earlier linkage to care, appropriate evaluation, and the opportunity to provide curative, life-saving therapy,” the MMWR report said.
A growing problem
The CDC noted that rates of HCV infections during pregnancy are on the rise, corresponding with the ongoing opioid crisis and intravenous drug use.
Yet most perinatally exposed children are not tested for HCV infection and are not referred for hepatitis C care. Reasons might include lack of awareness of perinatal exposure by pediatric providers, lack of regular pediatric care among exposed children, and switching of health care providers before the former recommended testing age of 18 months.
The CDC’s testing recommendation is welcome news to Dawnette A. Lewis, MD, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y. “As opposed to data for hep B and HIV, we have traditionally had little information and experience regarding the transmission and impact of hep C in pregnant women and their babies. We’ve been having that conversation about the lack of information for some time, and now there’s an opportunity to get evolving data on hep C and how it affects the baby, ” she said.
In her view, mothers will likely be quite accepting of testing for their infants. “It could be integrated into the routine newborn screening panel, so there should not be barriers to accessibility if they’re getting prenatal and neonatal care.”
Commenting on HCV testing for babies in an interview at his institution, Ravi R. Jhaveri, MD, division head of pediatric infectious diseases at Northwestern Medicine’s Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, said, “This is a terrific way to capitalize on the fact that infants already come to the doctor for many visits during the first months of life for their vaccines and their well-child check. And so this should be an easy way to streamline our testing strategy and hopefully lose many fewer patients.”
Northwestern Medicine is an innovative clinic offering HCV testing and treatment outside of clinical trials for pregnant women and their infants with the goal of preventing transmission from mother to child.
Northwestern is launching a clinical trial of treatment for HCV-positive pregnant patients during regular prenatal care. “With very simple treatments similar to taking a prenatal vitamin, it would be easy and seamless to fit into the existing schedule,” said Lyn Yee, MD, a Northwestern maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
Dr. Yee stressed that eliminating hepatitis C will likely be one of the most significant health advancements of the decade.
Dr. Lewis, Dr. Jhaveri, and Dr. Yee had no relevant conflicts of interest to declare with regard to their comments.
This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/s/viewarticle/998132?src=rss
Publish date : 2023-11-06 21:20:32
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