What is hepatitis C?

Updated: May 10, 2019
  • Author: Nicholas John Bennett, MBBCh, PhD, MA(Cantab), FAAP; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Answer

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is one of 6 viruses (along with hepatitis A, B, D, E, and G viruses) that cause viral hepatitis. Prior to identification of the virus, it was termed non-A/non-B hepatitis to distinguish it from the viral causes of nonalcoholic hepatitis that were known at the time.

Go to Viral Hepatitis for complete information on this topic.

Several distinct genotypes of hepatitis C virus have been identified, and genotyping has proven to be a useful clinical tool because the response to therapy and prognosis is influenced by the viral genotype. Genotype 1 is less than half as likely as other genotypes to respond to therapy, and the combination therapy regimens vary depending on the different genotypes (see Medication).

Unfortunately, most patients have chronic infection and are at risk for progressive liver disease. Furthermore, diagnosis primarily relies on identifying the risk factors of transmission because infected individuals typically have few or no symptoms. Once hepatitis C virus infection is diagnosed, current treatment options for eradication are limited and often result in significant adverse effects (see Treatment).

Although hepatitis C virus infection is uncommon in the pediatric population, the caregiver should be familiar with the basic concepts. For example, patients transfused as recently as July 1992 may have been exposed to the virus. Clinicians may also need to be aware of how to counsel parents of children exposed to HCV in utero. Even though most of these children will remain uninfected or clear their infection, considerable anxiety may be involved.

Most studies performed to further delineate the natural history of HCV have involved adult cohorts; therefore, further research on the ultimate outcome of infection during childhood is clearly needed.

See also Pediatric Hepatitis A and Pediatric Hepatitis B.


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