Hepatitis B and C in children

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Abstract

SUMMARY

Chronic infection with hepatitis B affects nearly 350 million individuals worldwide and is the leading cause of hepatocellular carcinoma and liver cirrhosis. Universal infant immunization has decreased rates of HBV infection, although transmission continues to occur via vertical (mother-to-child) and horizontal (sexual, parenteral and household) routes. Treatments are now available for children with chronic HBV infection, but appropriate selection of those most likely to respond to treatment is important. Interferon α and lamivudine are currently approved in the US for the treatment of children older than 2 years of age who have chronic HBV infection. Hepatitis C infection affects almost 170 million individuals worldwide. Of individuals exposed to HCV, 60-80% develop chronic hepatitis, and 10-15% of those chronically infected develop cirrhosis within several decades. No vaccine exists for HCV; therefore, prevention of parenteral transmission is important. A high index of suspicion is essential for the diagnosis of HCV infection given its silent clinical presentation. Appropriate evaluation of infected individuals is warranted when considering their suitability for therapy. Interferon α and ribavirin, used in combination, are currently approved in the US for the treatment of children older than 3 years of age with chronic HCV infection.

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