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Eradicating hepatitis B virus: The critical role of preventing perinatal transmission


Prevention of hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmission from infected mothers to their newborns is critical to HBV control and eventual eradication. Mother-to-child perinatal transmission causes the highest chronic carrier rate (>85%) with a high rate of subsequent chronic liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma. This risk is reduced by 90% with HBV vaccine given along with hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG) starting at birth. New analyses of our data from US trials of HBIG and HBV vaccine in high-risk infants revealed better efficacy with yeast-recombinant vaccine than plasma-derived vaccine, especially in preventing late onset infections, with evidence that vaccine prevented transmission of maternal HBV infection with the glycine to arginine mutation in surface antigen codon 145 (sG145R). Most late infections with sG145R were in vaccine non-responders, suggesting escape from HBIG rather than from vaccine-induced antibody. Our findings also help explain survey results from Taiwan following universal childhood immunization implemented in the mid-1980s. We conclude that current vaccines will remain effective against surface antigen mutants. Anti-viral drugs in high-risk pregnant women, in combination with newborn HBIG and vaccine, show promise for eliminating residual breakthrough neonatal infections, critical to meeting WHO 2030 goals and for eradicating HBV.

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