In the United States, chronic infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects an estimated 0.1-2% of the pediatric population, who are consequently at risk for major complications, including cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and death. The current standard of treatment for chronic hepatitis C (CHC) in children is pegylated-interferon-alpha (PEG-IFN) in combination with ribavirin. PEG-IFN/ribavirin therapy is approved for children ages 3 and older; however, it is often held from use until adulthood because of its extensive list of potential side effects and high likelihood of causing adverse symptoms. While CHC is usually indolent in children and adolescents, immediately treating and curbing the spread of HCV before adulthood is important, as there can be transmission to other individuals via sexual activity and infected females can later vertically transmit the infection during pregnancy, the latter representing the most common means of transmission for children in the United States. The recent development of direct-acting antivirals has shown promising results in clinical trials for use in children and has dramatically increased the rates of sustained virological response in adults while improving side effect profiles as compared to interferon-based treatments. Given the usually indolent course of CHC in children, significant side effects of the currently-approved PEG-IFN/ribavirin therapy, and likely availability of all-oral interferon-free regimens for children within a few years, deferring treatment in clinically-stable children with CHC in anticipation of upcoming superior treatment modalities may be justified.
View details for DOI 10.14218/JCTH.2016.00053
View details for PubMedID 28507928