Vaccinate infants of hepatitis B mothers, say experts

January 26, 2006

Immunising newborn infants of mothers with hepatitis B prevents infection being transmitted from mother to child, finds a study published online by the BMJ today.

There are around 350 million hepatitis B carriers worldwide. The virus is transmitted by contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person. Mother to child transmission around the time of birth is common and accounts for up to half of all carriers.

Researchers analysed randomised trials to assess the beneficial and harmful effects of hepatitis B vaccines (active production of antibodies) and hepatitis B immunoglobulin (passive transfer of antibodies) in newborn infants of mothers positive for hepatitis B surface antigen.

They found that hepatitis B vaccine, hepatitis B immunoglobulin, or the combination of vaccine plus immunoglobulin given to the newborn infants of mothers positive for hepatitis B surface antigen prevents the occurrence of hepatitis B. Furthermore, the combination of vaccine plus immunoglobulin was superior to vaccine alone.

There was no difference between the two types of vaccine currently available.

"Although this study confirms that vaccines and immunoglobulin are effective, more research is needed to identify the optimal dose and treatment schedule of hepatitis B immunisation," conclude the authors.
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BMJ

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