Zanetti AR, Tanzi E, RomanóL, Principi N, Zuin G, Minola E, Zapparoli B, Palmieri M, Marini A, Ghisotti D, Friedman P, Hunt J, Laffler T
Evidence indicates that the GBV-C or hepatitis G virus can cause persistent infection in humans, but little is known on the importance of vertical transmission. To assess the risk of mother-to-infant transmission and the clinical outcome of infected babies, we investigated 175 anti-HCV positive mothers and followed-up their children for 3-33 months. GBV-C RNA was detected by RT-PCR and anti-E2 antibody was assayed by EIA. Thirty-four (19.4%) women were GBV-C RNA positive and transmission occurred to 21 (61.8%) babies; 20 (95.2%) acquired GBV-C alone, and one (4.8%) GBV-C and HCV. Maternal factors such as intravenous drug use, HIV coinfection, HCV-RNA positivity, and type of feeding were not correlated with GBV-C transmission. GBV-C RNA remained persistently positive in all infected babies but one baby who seroconverted to anti-E2. Seven (35%) babies with GBV-C alone developed marginally elevated ALT; the baby with HCV and GBV-C co-infection had the highest ALT peak value (664 IU/l). Seven of the 141 (5%) babies born to the GBV-C RNA negative mothers acquired HCV and six (85.7%) had abnormal ALT. The mean ALT peak value was significantly higher (P<0.05) for babies with HCV than for those with GBV-C. None of the children with GBV-C or with HCV became icteric. GBV-C is frequently present in anti-HCV positive women. The infection is transmitted efficiently from mother to baby and rate of transmission is much higher than that for HCV. GBV-C can cause persistent infection in babies but usually without clear evidence of liver disease.