Source Centre for Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
Spontaneous viral clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been reported to occur in children with vertical HCV infection. However, factors which are associated with or predispose for clearance are largely unknown. In this case series we retrospectively analyzed laboratory parameters associated with spontaneous clearance of HCV in vertically infected children. The charts of six patients with documented spontaneous viral clearance by the age of 5 years were reviewed regarding clinical course, liver function tests (LFTs) and trend of HCV gene copy numbers. Spontaneous viral elimination was observed between the 25th and 52nd months of age. All patients had elevated LFTs, which peaked before 20 months of life. Peak LFT elevation was followed by normalization of LFTs and decline in viral load. These findings suggest that, in vertically HCV-infected children, a potent inflammatory response in the liver precedes viral clearance. Therefore, temporarily elevated LFTs, followed by a decline of viral load may be indicative of a near viral clearance in early childhood. Conclusion: Further investigations regarding the development of optimal treatment algorithms should take into account factors, which are associated with possible spontaneous viral resolution, such as viral genotype, favourable host factors as well as direct and indirect parameters of antiviral immunity, and the individual course of viral replication.