Source Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
BACKGROUND: The outcome of patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection acquired during childhood in the absence of antiviral therapy is not clear.
AIMS: The purpose of this study was to review the outcome of untreated HCV acquired in childhood. Only population-based studies were included, as referred cases would be predicted to have more severe disease.
METHODS: A systematic review of the literature was completed up to October 2010 to identify studies where a population was screened for HCV infection that was presumably acquired during childhood. Demographical and clinical data were collected on infected patients who had not been treated with an antiviral. Primary outcome was development of a severe adverse outcome (cirrhosis, hepatoma, need for a liver transplant or liver-related death).
RESULTS: There were 25 studies reporting a total of 733 infected patients. Liver biopsy results were provided for 180 patients (25%), revealing cirrhosis in eight (1.0% of the total and 4.0% of those who had a biopsy). None of the other patients developed a severe adverse outcome. As a result of the small number of patients with a severe adverse outcome, risk factors for HCV progression could not be identified.
CONCLUSION: Although HCV can lead to liver transplantation and death during childhood, the vast majority of patients with disease acquired during childhood have slowly progressive disease. There is no clear indication for antiviral therapy in the majority of children with HCV infection.