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Swiss HIV Cohort Study Reports Hepatitis C Transmitted During Sexual Contact

February 24, 2014

This article was reported by HealthCanal.

HealthCanal reported on a Swiss study showing that hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is transmitted by sexual contact as well as in blood. Researchers at the University Hospital Zurich compared the molecular structure of HIV in approximately 10,000 anonymous samples from participants in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study. The researchers established more than 1,500 pairs of HIV patients with matching gene sequences. Matching gene sequences indicate a high probability that one patient infected the other. Researchers also knew whether the patients were coinfected with HCV.

Results of analyses indicated that HIV-positive individuals with an HIV/HCV-coinfected partner have two to three times the risk of being infected with HCV. The increased risk was found among injecting drug users as well as among homosexual and heterosexual HIV-positive individuals. According to Roger Kouyos, the lead researcher of the study, this proved that HCV was sexually transmitted.

Huldrych Günthard, another of the researchers, noted that the results have importance for prevention and suggested that HIV/HCV-coinfected individuals should not participate in unprotected sex. Also, Günthard noted that homosexuals seemed to be particularly at risk and suggested that increased blood exchange during anal sex could be the responsible.

The full report, "Clustering of HCV Coinfections on HIV Phylogeny Indicates Domestic and Sexual Transmission of HCV," was published online in the International Journal of Epidemiology (2014; doi: 10.1093/ije/dyt276).

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