Transmission of hepatitis C virus between spouses: the important role of exposure duration

J H Kao, Y T Hwang, P J Chen, P M Yang, M Y Lai, T H Wang, D S Chen
American Journal of Gastroenterology 1996, 91 (10): 2087-90

OBJECTIVES: Although interspousal transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been studied, the factors responsible for it remain unclear.

METHODS: To investigate the transmission of HCV between spouses and the related risk factors, 100 anti-HCV-positive index patients and their spouses were studied.

RESULTS: Overall, anti-HCV was detected in 17 (17%) spouses, 15 of whom were also positive for HCV RNA, and 11 couples were infected with the same genotype. The anti-HCV-positive rate was higher in spouses married longer than 20 yr compared with those married less than 20 yr (22 vs 6%, p < 0.05), and the infection was correlated with the duration of their actual exposure to the index patients but not with serum HCV titers. The infected couples had more frequent sexual contacts and more commonly shared tooth-brushes than those with uninfected spouses.

CONCLUSION: Spouses of patients with chronic hepatitis C have a higher risk of acquiring HCV that increases with longer marriage and duration of exposure, and they should be educated about how to avoid contracting HCV infection from their spouses.

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