Low levels of hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing among children born to women with the virus indicate that there are likely many children living with undetected hep C, at least in Philadelphia, NPR reports. Publishing their findings in Clinically Infectious Diseases, researchers analyzed hep C surveillance data reported to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health along with retrospectively collected negative test results.

Looking at the surveillance data on 2011 to 2013, the researchers found that 8,119 females were HCV positive and listed in the city’s hepatitis registry. Five hundred (5 percent) of these females had delivered at least one child. Eighty-four (16 percent) of these children had been tested for hep C. Four (1 percent) of the total group of children were confirmed as HCV positive. Based on a 5 percent expected mother-to-child transmission rate, the researchers expected that an additional 24 children had chronic hep C but had not been identified as such by 20 months of age.

The researchers concluded: “These findings illustrate that a significant number of women giving birth in Philadelphia are HCV-positive and that most of their at-risk children remain untested. To successfully identify all HCV-infected children and integrate them into HCV-specific care, practices for HCV screening of pregnant women and their children should be improved.”

To read the NPR article, click here.

To read the study, click here.