Research

Hepatitis B and HIV co-infection in pregnant women: Indication for routine antenatal hepatitis B virus screening in a high HIV prevalence setting

Natasha V Thumbiran, Dhayendre Moodley, Raveen Parboosing, Pravi Moodley

Abstract


Background. Sub-Saharan Africa is endemic for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections. HBV/HIV co-infection in women of reproductive age is of clinical and public health importance because these women constitute a significant reservoir for horizontal and perinatal HBV transmission. Childhood HBV vaccination from 6 weeks of age protects most children against chronic HBV infection. However, infants born to HBV/HIV co-infected women are more likely to be infected perinatally, with an increased risk of chronic hepatitis, than infants born to HBV mono-infected women.

Objectives. The aim of our study was to establish the prevalence of HBV infection and HBV/HIV co-infection in pregnant women in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, to inform antenatal HBV screening and childhood immunisation policies in South Africa.

Methods. Stored plasma specimens obtained from 570 pregnant women were tested for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and HBV infectivity, as characterised by the presence of hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) and/or HBV DNA load.

Results. The antenatal HIV prevalence and HBsAg prevalence in this study were 41.6% and 5.3% (95% confidence interval (CI) 3.4 - 7.1%), respectively. Overall, 3.1% (95% CI 1.7 - 4.6%) of pregnant women were HBV/HIV co-infected, with HBeAg positivity and the HBV DNA load being significantly higher in co-infected women.

Conclusion. We report a 5.3% HBV prevalence and a 3.1% HBV/HIV co-infection prevalence in pregnant women from this HIV-endemic region. Routine antenatal HBV screening will allow early identification of neonates who require HBV active-passive immunoprophylaxis at birth. This strategy, together with antenatal antiretrovirals, will reduce the risk of perinatal HBV transmission, especially in high-risk HBV/HIV co-infected pregnant women.

Authors' affiliations

Natasha V Thumbiran, Department of Virology, National Health Laboratory Service, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Dhayendre Moodley, Women’s Health and HIV Research Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Raveen Parboosing, Department of Virology, National Health Laboratory Service, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Pravi Moodley, Department of Virology, National Health Laboratory Service, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Keywords

Hepatitis B; HBV/HIV co-infection; Pregnant women; Antenatal screening

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(4):307-309. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.7299

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-07-22
Date published: 2014-03-18

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