Liver disease in children with hepatitis C from infanthood progressively worsens as they age and liver damage becomes well-established in the mid-teen years, according to a study reported in the February 1st issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Researchers investigated the characteristics and evolution of the hepatitis C virus in white children who were patients in 7 European children between 1980-1998.
All of the patients involved in the study were positive for antibodies to hepatitis C virus, 87% were asymptomatic and 48% had alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels that were less than or equal to twice the upper limit of the range considered to be normal.
Of 200 children followed for 1 to 17.5 years, only 12 (6%) achieved sustained viremia clearance and normalization of the ALT level. The level of liver damage was over 50 percent higher for children 15 years of age or more than for children less than 15 years of age.
"Pediatric HCV infection is usually mild, but few patients, especially those who are perinatally infected, clear viremia in the medium-term follow-up," said the researchers. "Conversely, the higher rates of fibrosis observed in older patients suggest the possibility of an insidious progression of HCV-associated liver disease."
Other sources: Clinical Infectious Diseases (2003;36:275-280)