Aids Weekly Plus
Babies born to women who have a high hepatitis B viral load—especially if the mothers also test positive for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)—are more likely to contract hepatitis B, even when vaccinated against the disease.
The study focused on 303 hepatitis B-infected mothers and their babies’ risk of contracting the virus during the first three years of life. Researchers first established the maternal viral load and HBeAg status—81 women were HBeAg-positive—then gave initial and follow-up hepatitis B tests to all of the babies. All babies received complete doses of hepatitis B immunization, and the babies born to HBeAg-positive mothers also received hepatitis B immunoglobulin within the first 24 hours of life. The study results controlled for confounding factors, including age, birth type, gender, weight, gestational age, and feeding practices.
Ten children in the study, all of whom were born to HBeAg-positive mothers, developed chronic hepatitis B, in spite of prophylactic measures. To lower risk of hepatitis B infection, researchers recommended that future screening and treatment interventions incorporate the study results.
The full report, “Mother-to-Infant Transmission of Hepatitis B Virus Infection: Significance of Maternal Viral Load and Strategies for Intervention,” was published online in the Journal of Hepatology (February 2013; doi:10.1016/j.jhep.2013.02.015).