Neue Erkenntnisse zu Hepatitis C bei Säuglingen könnte zu besseren Therapien führen

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Im Gegensatz zu anderen über das Blut übertragenen Krankheiten wie HIV und Hepatitis B ist das Risiko einer Übertragung von der Mutter auf das Kind während einer Schwangerschaft bei Hepatitis C gering: Nur fünf Prozent der Kinder, die von Müttern mit chronischer Hepatitis C zur Welt gebracht werden, leiden selbst an dieser Krankheit.

Forscher des Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm (Schweden) haben jetzt eine mögliche Erklärung für das geringe Infektionsrisiko gefunden. „Das Immunsystem gesunder Babys zeigt ähnliche Veränderungen wie bei mit Hepatitis C infizierten Babys“, sagt Niklas Björkström. „Dies könnte darauf hindeuten, dass die Immunzellen [des Kindes] im Mutterleib in Kontakt mit dem Virus gekommen sind und es vor der Geburt eliminieren konnten.“

Die Studie wurde mit Frauen und deren Kindern in einer Geburtsklinik in Sankt Petersburg (Russland) durchgeführt. Von den 55 teilnehmenden schwangeren Frauen litten 40 an einer aktiven Hepatitis-C-Infektion, während die übrigen nach einer früheren Infektion Antikörper aufwiesen. Bei allen Kindern von Frauen mit einer aktiven Infektion ging man von einer Virusexposition aus. Trotzdem entwickelten nur drei dieser 40 Babys eine Hepatitis C.

Alle Säuglinge wurden bis zum Alter von 18 Monaten durch regelmäßige Tests überwacht. Um das Volumen vergleichbarer Daten zu erhöhen, wurden Proben von 18 Säuglingen hinzugefügt, die bei der Geburt mit Hepatitis C infiziert waren.

Die Studie zeigte, dass sowohl die mit einer Infektion geborenen Babys als auch diejenigen, die durch eine infizierte Mutter dem Virus ausgesetzt worden waren, ähnliche Veränderungen in ihrem adaptiven Immunsystem aufwiesen, mit deutlichen Anpassungen der B-Lymphozyten. Deren Aufgabe ist es, Antikörper zu produzieren, die in der Lage sind, fremde Mikroben wie Viren, Bakterien und Parasiten zu entdecken und zu identifizieren.

„Eine mögliche Erklärung ist, dass die meisten Kinder, die dem Virus ausgesetzt sind, es in utero schaffen, damit fertigzuwerden, was wir später an den B-Lymphozyten sehen können“, erklärt Björkström. “Eine interessante Hypothese ist, dass diese Zellen neuartige Informationen enthalten können, mit denen wir uns in Zukunft vor Hepatis C schützen können.”

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