Hepatitis B Virus Prevalence and Mother-to-Child Transmission Risk in an HIV Early Intervention Cohort in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Millar J., Cromhout GZL., Mchunu N., Bengu N., Ndung'u T., Goulder PJ., Matthews PC., McNaughton AL.
BACKGROUND: HIV and hepatitis B virus (HBV) prevalence are both high in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. HIV coinfection negatively affects HBV prognosis and can increase the likelihood of HBV mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). In an early HIV infant treatment intervention cohort of HIV-transmitting mother-child pairs in KwaZulu-Natal, we characterized maternal HBV prevalence and screened infants at risk. METHODS: Infants were treated for HIV MTCT at birth, and combination regimens incidentally active against HBV were initiated within 21 days. Maternal samples (N = 175) were screened at birth for HBV infection (HBV surface antigen [HBsAg]), exposure to HBV (HBV anti-core IgG), and vaccination responses (HBV anti-S positive without other HBV markers). Infants of mothers who were HBV positive were screened for HBsAg at 1 and 12 months. RESULTS: Evidence of HBV infection was present in 8.6% (n = 15) of maternal samples. Biomarkers for HBV exposure were present in 31.4% (n = 55). Evidence of HBV vaccination was uncommon in mothers (8.0%; n = 14). Despite prescription of antiretroviral therapy (ART) active against HBV, HBV DNA was detectable in 46.7% (7/15) of mothers who were HBsAg positive. Three mothers had HBV viral loads >5.3 log10 IU/mL, making them high risk for HBV MTCT. Screening of available infant samples at 1 month (n = 14) revealed no cases of HBV MTCT. At 12 months, we identified 1 HBV infection (1/13), and serologic evidence of vaccination was present in 53.8% (7/13) of infants. DISCUSSION: This vulnerable cohort of HIV-transmitting mothers had a high prevalence of undiagnosed HBV. Early infant ART may have reduced the risk of MTCT in high-risk cases. Current HBV guidelines recommend ART prophylaxis, but these data underline the pressing need to increase availability of birth dose vaccines.