Design, setting and patients: Retrospective review of medical records from one rural and two metropolitan hospitals in New South Wales for pregnant women on methadone maintenance treatment and infants born to these women between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2006, as well as records for pregnant women who were not on methadone treatment.
Results: Of 295 pregnant women on methadone maintenance treatment, 288 were tested for anti-HCV antibodies (98%), compared with 1995 of 9987 women who were not on methadone treatment (20%) (P < 0.001). Seropositive results were obtained for 243 women in the methadone group (84%) and 54 in the non-methadone group (3%) (P < 0.001), of whom 44 (18%) and 17 (31%), respectively, were subsequently tested for HCV RNA (P = 0.03). HCV RNA test results were positive for 31 (70%) and 10 (59%) seropositive women in the methadone and non-methadone groups, respectively (P = 0.39). Of infants of HCV-seropositive methadone-maintained mothers, 27% of those for whom we had follow-up attendance data received HCV screening, and one of these infants tested positive for anti-HCV antibodies and HCV RNA.
Conclusions: Screening for HCV infection in the high-risk population of pregnant women on methadone maintenance treatment and their infants is inadequate. This could lead to significant underdetection of active HCV infection in this high-risk population, and their infants. Current screening guidelines may therefore need to be revised.
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