Multiple factors support treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in children. These factors include the anticipated long duration of infection after early acquisition, relatively good tolerance of antiviral medications, and avoidance of social stigmatization. Nevertheless, careful selection of appropriate candidates for therapy is important. If a contraindication to current therapeutic agents is present, treatment should be withheld until this has resolved or until new agents are available. Children without contraindications to the medications used for HCV should undergo liver biopsy to determine the presence and degree of fibrosis. In the absence of fibrosis, treatment may be deferred. If any degree of hepatic fibrosis is present, antiviral therapy for HCV should be considered. At present, in the United States, the only therapy approved for children by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a combination of interferon (IFN) alfa-2b and ribavirin. No safe therapies have been established for children younger than 3 years of age. Pegylated interferon in combination with ribavirin may be considered in adolescents older than 16 years of age who are post-pubertal, or in younger children in the context of clinical trials. Multicenter trials are currently underway to determine the safety and effectiveness of other forms of therapy for HCV infection in children.
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