Although the incidence of spousal transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in chronic carriers is extremely low (1.4% to 8%), hepatitis C recurrence after liver transplantation is common with markedly increased serum HCV RNA levels. Thus, partners of these patients may be at higher risk of acquiring infection. This study evaluates the prevalence of spousal transmission of hepatitis C after liver transplantation. Twenty‐two of 25 couples who were eligible agreed to the retrospective study. Twenty‐two patients (17 males, 5 females) and spouses (5 males, 17 females) were studied with respective mean ages of 50.2 years (35 to 65 years) and 46.9 years (33 to 66 years). Liver enzymes, second‐generation enzyme‐linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for antibody to HCV (anti‐HCV) and HCV RNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and branched DNA assay were performed. HCV‐associated antibodies were detected in 1 of 22 (5%) spouses and 21 of 22 (95%) patients (P < 0.0001). Nineteen of 22 (86%) patients tested positive by PCR with a mean value of 16,218,100 Eq/mL (464,700 to 51,980,000). All spouses including the only ELISA anti‐HCV positive spouse tested negative by PCR (P < 0.0001). Eight of 21 spouses tested negative for anti‐HCV pretransplantation, (13 of 21 pretransplantation were not tested). Estimated mean duration of hepatitis C infection in patients was 14 years (3 to 40 years). Mean patient follow‐up posttransplantation was 654.5 days (141 to 1,959 days). Mean duration of marriage was 22.6 years (2.5 to 46 years). No risk factors other than exposure to index patients were observed in spouses. The incidence of spousal transmission of HCV in liver transplantation remains low (5%) and similar to chronic carriers of HCV.
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