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Reuters Health Information (2005-04-25): Research supports sexual transmission of HCV


Research supports sexual transmission of HCV

Last Updated: 2005-04-25 15:33:14 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Findings by Turkish researchers support the idea that hepatitis C virus (HCV) can be sexually transmitted and that the risk is directly related to the number of intercourse events. However, the association does not seem to be very strong.

In the April issue of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, Dr. Veysel Tahan, from Marmara University in Istanbul, and colleagues note that contact with infected blood is the main route by which HCV is transmitted. Nevertheless, in up to 50% of cases, a transmission route is never identified.

Researchers have hypothesized that some may stem from sexual transmission. To investigate, Dr. Tahan's team assessed HCV transmission between 600 chronic hepatitis C patients and their spouses.

In a subgroup of 216 spouses who were HCV-negative at baseline, the authors prospectively assessed seroconversion rates over a mean follow-up period of 35.7 months.

Anti-HCV antibodies were detected in 2% of the spouses, the researchers note. Mean age and duration of marriage were not associated with anti-HCV positivity. By contrast, a near-significant association between number of intercourse events and HCV transmission risk was observed (p = 0.055).

None of the HCV-negative subjects seroconverted during follow-up, the investigators note.

"The risk of HCV transmission between monogamous sex partners may be related to the number of sexual intercourse" events, the authors state. "The absence of any evidence of transmission in the 3-year follow-up period suggests that this relation is not very strong."

In a related editorial, Dr. Norah A. Terrault, from the University of California at San Francisco, comments that the "low incidence of new infections among monogamous couples supports the clinical practice of not recommending that such couples change their sexual practices."

Am J Gastroenterol 2005;100:821-826.

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