Journal of Infectious Diseases
Volume 206 Issue 4 August 15, 2012
Editor’s choice: Horizontal Transmission of Hepatitis B Virus—Why Discuss When We Can Vaccinate?
J Infect Dis. (2012) 206(4): 464-465 doi:10.1093/infdis/jis294
Ida Louise Heiberg and Birthe Hogh
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection remains an important global health problem despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine; >350 million people worldwide are chronically infected . Infection with HBV in adults most often results in self-limited, acute hepatitis that confers protective immunity and causes no further disease. In contrast, most children fail to clear the virus, resulting in chronic infection in 90% of children who are infected perinatally. Chronically infected children are generally asymptomatic but are at risk of developing liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma [2, 3]. Since 1992, the World Health Organization has recommended global vaccination against HBV, and by the end of 2009, 177 countries had implemented a universal HBV immunization program for newborns, infants, and/or adolescents. Countries with a low level of HBV endemicity, such as Japan and many northern European countries, have adopted a strategy in which vaccination is offered to individuals at high risk of infection .
Spread of HBV occurs through contact with blood or other bodily fluids of an infected person. In countries with low endemicity, the spread of HBV is caused predominantly by sharing contaminated equipment during drug injections and through sexual contact.
In this issue of the Journal, Komatsu et al report their …