Mystery virus infecting dozens in central China prompts fears of new epidemic
The focus of the study, funded by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, was to see if children exposed to the virus either during pregnancy or during delivery received appropriate testing and to determine if hospital- and patient-level factors affected testing.
Stephen Patrick, MD, MPH, MS, director of the Center for Child Health Policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and senior author of the paper, said as the opioid crisis continues to spread, affecting more women and infants, there needs to be more focus on the complications of the opioid crisis, like hepatitis C.
"There's an urgent need to develop public health approaches to ensure we are treating women for hepatitis C infections before pregnancy, identifying infected women in pregnancy and ensuring all exposed infants are appropriately monitored," said Patrick, associate professor of Pediatrics and Health Policy.
Lopata's interest in determining testing rates came after her interaction with a former patient, whose mother had opioid use disorder and hepatitis C, the most common cause of liver disease. The then-3-year-old was jaundiced, had hepatitis C and needed a liver transplant.
"Despite the fact that the baby was diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), an opioid withdrawal syndrome in newborns, his hepatitis C exposure wasn't identified. He fell through the cracks. Seeing him in liver failure made me want to pursue this area of research."
According to Lopata, 185 million people, or 3% of the world's population, are infected with hepatitis C. In the United States, 3.5 million people are infected with the virus, the most common blood-borne infection.
"I believe people will be shocked to discover that we are not doing a good job testing children," Lopata said. "There is no universal screening for hepatitis C in pregnancy. Perhaps someday this would be an option to better identify moms and babies exposed so that down the road we can test them when appropriate.
"Pediatricians need to be on alert about the need to follow and appropriately test these children. We have to develop better ways to track them." Source:
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