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.