The prevalence and burden of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in children are poorly understood mainly as a result of the fact that studies in this population have largely been done in high-risk groups and in highly endemic regions. Epidemiological studies estimate the viraemic prevalence in the paediatric population aged 0-18 years at 0.13%, corresponding to 3.26 million children with HCV in 2018. While vertical transmission occurs in up to 5% of neonates born to infected mothers, with preference for those with high viral load and co-infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, injection drug use is the prevalent modality of HCV infection among adolescents. Notwithstanding the fact that HCV usually has an indolent course in children and adolescents, hepatitis C may progress to significant liver disease in a fraction of patients. The finding of severe disease or cirrhosis in a minority of paediatric patients with HCV underscores the importance of early diagnosis and treatment in order to prevent long-term morbidity. Universal screening of HCV in pregnant women is key to identify infants exposed to such a risk and link them to care. Recently, direct-acting antiviral drugs proved to be as safe and effective in young HCV patients as in adults, and these agents are now approved for treatment of paediatric patients as young as 3 years. This review provides a contemporary overview of the HCV disease burden in children, with a particular focus on its treatment in the era of direct-acting antiviral agents.
- direct-acting antiviral agents
- hepatitis C
ASJC Scopus subject areas