COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Lack of evidence of sexual transmission of hepatitis C among monogamous couples: results of a 10-year prospective follow-up study

Carmen Vandelli, Francesco Renzo, Luisa Romanò, Sergio Tisminetzky, Marisa De Palma, Tommaso Stroffolini, Ezio Ventura, Alessandro Zanetti
American Journal of Gastroenterology 2004, 99 (5): 855-9
15128350
The risk of sexual transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection was evaluated among 895 monogamous heterosexual partners of HCV chronically infected individuals in a long-term prospective study, which provided a follow-up period of 8,060 person-years. Seven hundred and seventy-six (86.7%) spouses were followed for 10 yr, corresponding to 7,760 person-years of observation. One hundred and nineteen (13.3%) spouses (69 whose infected partners cleared the virus following treatment and 50 who ended their relationship or were lost at follow-up) contributed an additional 300 person-years. All couples denied practicing anal intercourse or sex during menstruation, as well as condom use. The average weekly rate of sexual intercourse was 1.8. Three HCV infections were observed during follow-up corresponding to an incidence rate of 0.37 per 1,000 person-years. However, the infecting HCV genotype in one spouse (2a) was different from that of the partner (1b), clearly excluding sexual transmission. The remaining two couples had concordant genotypes, but sequence analysis of the NS5b region of the HCV genome, coupled with phylogenetic analysis showed that the corresponding partners carried different viral isolates, again excluding the possibility of intraspousal transmission of HCV. Our data indicate that the risk of sexual transmission of HCV within heterosexual monogamous couples is extremely low or even null. No general recommendations for condom use seem required for individuals in monogamous partnerships with HCV-infected partners.

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