Hepatitis G May Be Sexually Transmitted

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Hepatitis G — a recently discovered strain of viral hepatitis previously thought transmissible only through infected blood — may also be transmitted sexually, a study suggests.

Researchers in Sweden and Honduras found a “surprisingly” high rate of infection with the virus in healthy individuals without known risk factors such as injection drug use and treatment for hemophilia. In their tests of 387 blood samples, infection with hepatitis G virus (HGV) was detected in three of 100 healthy Swedish volunteers and in one of 50 healthy Honduran university students.

However, the researchers point out that HGV infection also “was related to common risk factors for blood-borne infections.” But it was the high rates of infection in homosexual men and in the healthy volunteers that lead the authors to question the possibility of transmission via sexual contacts.

The researchers note that HGV can be transmitted from an infected mother to her infant during childbirth. But they add that HGV might also be transmitted by “other routes yet to be defined.”

The hepatitis G virus was first identified in 1996. The virus causes chronic infection, but the effects on the liver and the individual’s health over time remain unknown. SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Microbiology