[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 19-Mar-2013
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Contact: Dawn Peters
sciencenewsroom@wiley.com
781-388-8408
Wiley

Sex between monogamous heterosexuals rarely source of hepatitis C infection

Individuals infected by the hepatitis C virus (HCV) have nothing to fear from sex in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship. Transmission of HCV from an infected partner during sex is rare according to new research published in the March issue of Hepatology, a journal published by Wiley on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).

Experts estimate that HCV affects up to 4 million Americans, most of whom are sexually active. Medical evidence shows HCV is primarily transmitted by exposure to infectious blood, typically through intravenous (IV) drug use. However, there are conflicting reports regarding sexual activity and HCV transmission with some studies suggesting that exposure to infected blood during sex—through bodily fluids such as vaginal secretions, semen or saliva—may carry a minimal infection risk.

"Generally the risk for transmitting HCV to sex partners is very low," explains lead study author Dr. Norah Terrault with the University of California, San Francisco. "Yet, lack of quantitative data about the risk of HCV transmission with sexual activity remains a limitation for doctors counseling their patients on safe sex practices."

To specifically quantify the risk HCV transmission from a chronically infected individual to their sex partner, researchers recruited 500 anti-HCV-positive individuals, who were negative for the human immunodeficiency (HIV), and their long-term heterosexual partners. Couples were surveyed about lifetime risk factors for HCV infection, sexual practices of the couple, and sharing of personal items. The team analyzed blood samples to determine the presence or absence of active virus in the blood and compared the HCV strains in those couples with HCV present.

The majority of HCV infected individuals who participated in the study were non-Hispanic whites, had a median age of 49 years, and sexual activity with their partners ranging from 2 to 52 years. HCV prevalence among partners was 4%, with 9 couples having similar viral strains and viral samples from 3 couples were highly related which is consistent with HCV transmission between the partners.

The maximum incidence rate of HCV transmission by sex was 0.07% per year or roughly 1 per 190,000 sexual contacts that researchers based upon 8377 person-years of follow-up. The team did not identify any specific sexual practices linked to HCV infections among the couples. "Our study provides clinicians with important information for counseling chronic HCV patients in long-term sexual relationships, supporting the current recommendations that couples not change their sexual practices if they are in a monogamous heterosexual relationship," concludes Dr. Terrault.

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To request a copy of the study, please contact sciencenewsroom@wiley.com

Full citation: "Sexual Transmission of HCV Among Monogamous Heterosexual Couples: The HCV Partners Study." Norah A. Terrault, Jennifer L. Dodge, Edward L. Murphy, John E. Tavis, Alexi Kiss, T.R. Levin, Robert Gish, Michael Busch, Arthur L. Reingold, Miriam J. Alter. Hepatology; (DOI: 10.1002/hep.26164); Print Issue Date: March, 2013.

URL: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/hep.26164

Author Contact: To arrange an interview with Dr. Terrault, please contact Juliana Bunim at juliana.bunim@ucsf.edu.

About the Journal

Hepatology is the premier publication in the field of liver disease, publishing original, peer-reviewed articles concerning all aspects of liver structure, function and disease. Each month, the distinguished Editorial Board monitors and selects only the best articles on subjects such as immunology, chronic hepatitis, viral hepatitis, cirrhosis, genetic and metabolic liver diseases and their complications, liver cancer, and drug metabolism.

Hepatology is published on is published by Wiley on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). For more information, please visit http://wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/hep.

About Wiley

Wiley is a global provider of content-enabled solutions that improve outcomes in research, education, and professional practice. Our core businesses produce scientific, technical, medical, and scholarly journals, reference works, books, database services, and advertising; professional books, subscription products, certification and training services and online applications; and education content and services including integrated online teaching and learning resources for undergraduate and graduate students and lifelong learners.

Founded in 1807, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (NYSE: JWa, JWb), has been a valued source of information and understanding for more than 200 years, helping people around the world meet their needs and fulfill their aspirations. Wiley and its acquired companies have published the works of more than 450 Nobel laureates in all categories: Literature, Economics, Physiology or Medicine, Physics, Chemistry, and Peace. Wiley's global headquarters are located in Hoboken, New Jersey, with operations in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada, and Australia. The Company's website can be accessed at http://www.wiley.com.



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