Thirty three consecutive children with chronic non-A, non-B hepatitis (NANBH) were studied during a four year period to evaluate clinical and histological features and the role of hepatitis C virus (HCV). All patients were asymptomatic. Thirteen (39%) of them were anti-HCV positive. A history of parenteral exposure was significantly more frequent among anti-HCV positive (69%) than anti-HCV negative patients (15%). Aminotransferase serum values were not statistically different between anti-HCV positive and anti-HCV negative patients. Unlike adults, cirrhosis was never found in the children studied. Our results suggest that chronic NANBH is, during childhood, an asymptomatic disease and that the prevalence of HCV infection is lower than in adults. As the majority of the children with chronic NANBH showed no evidence of HCV infection, it seems unwarranted to identify NANBH with HCV infection in children. The lack of cirrhosis in paediatric patients is probably related to a shorter duration of liver disease.
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