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We studied the perinatal transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in 70 high risk mother/infant pairs. Seventy-six percent of the mothers (53 of 70) were coinfected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and 79% (55 of 70) had a history of drug addiction. During the follow-up HCV RNA was detected in 14 of 70 (20%) infants: 12% (2 of 17) in infants born to HIV-negative mothers; and 23% (12 of 53) in infants to HIV-positive mothers. The rate of vertical transmission was significantly higher in vaginally delivered infants than in those delivered by cesarean section (32% vs. 6%; P < 0.05). All 56 uninfected infants lost passively acquired anti-HCV by age 9 \pm 4 months and only 2 of 56 infants (4%) had evidence of HIV infection. Four of 14 HCV RNA-positive infants (29%) had evidence of HTV coinfection. We observed 3 clinical patterns of HCV infection: a transient viremia in 2 infants; an acute pattern in 2 infants; and a chronic pattern in 10 infants. All 4 HIV-coinfected infants had chronic HCV infection. All infants with a chronic pattern, had increased alanine aminotransferase values for more than 6 months and 5 had a liver biopsy that showed signs of chronic persistent hepatitis. HCV perinatal transmission was more frequent in infants born to HIV-coinfected mothers than in infants born to HIV-noninfected women, particularly when delivered vaginally.