Background: Study reports on the transmission of HCV infection from mother to child are limited in India and almost lacking from Punjab (Malwa region), where the infection is reported to be on the rise.
Aim: To determine the rate of perinatal transmission in asymptomatic HIV seronegative pregnant females of Malwa region of Punjab.
Methods: In this prospective follow up study, a total of 829 of the 841 consecutive healthy pregnant females who were negative for antiHIV antibodies and HBsAg were tested for antiHCV antibodies by third generation ELISA. HCV seropositive females were further tested for HCV-RNA by RT-PCR. Babies born to viraemic mothers were tested for the presence of anti HCV antibodies and HCV-RNA at birth, at 6 months and at 12 months of age.
Results: Out of 829 pregnant females, 35 (4.22%) were positive for antiHCV antibodies and of these 35, 17 (48.58%) had detectable HCV-RNA. Of the 17 babies born to HCV viraemic mothers, 5 (29.4%) were positive for antiHCV antibodies and 3 (17.64%) for HCV-RNA at birth. Only one of these three, could be followed till 12 months of age and remained positive for both antiHCV antibodies and HCV-RNA. This gave the rate of perinatal transmission as 5.88% (1 of 17) among HCV-RNA positive pregnant females. Among the study of risk factors, history of unsafe therapeutic injections was observed as a statistically significant (p<0.0001).
Conclusion: 5.88% rate of perinatal transmission of the present study shows that this is not an uncommon route of transmission of HCV in Malwa region of Punjab. However, more studies are urgently needed to know the exact extent and other aspects of this route of transmission to prevent further spread.