Point-of-care screening for hepatitis B virus infection in pregnant women at an antenatal clinic : a South African experience

Chotun, Nafiisah ; Preiser, Wolfgang ; Van Rensburg, Christoffel Johannes ; Fernandez, Pedro ; Theron, Gerhard Barnard ; Glebe, Dieter ; Andersson, Monique Ingrid (2017)

CITATION: Chotun, N., et al. 2017. Point-of-care screening for hepatitis B virus infection in pregnant women at an antenatal clinic : a South African experience. PLoS ONE, 12(7):e0181267, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181267.

The original publication is available at https://journals.plos.org/plosone


Background & aims: Elimination of HIV and syphilis mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) has received much attention but little consideration has been given to the possibility of elimination of HBV MTCT. In sub-Saharan Africa, HBV vertical transmission continues to be reported and it remains an important public health problem. This study aimed to assess the feasibility of screening pregnant women for HBV using a point-of-care (POC) test and implementing interventions to prevent HBV MTCT. Methods: In this observational prospective cohort study, HIV-uninfected pregnant women who consented to testing were screened for HBV using a rapid POC test for HBsAg. Positive results were laboratory-confirmed and tested for HBV DNA and serological markers. Women with viral loads ≥ 20 000 IU/ml received tenofovir (TDF) treatment and all infants received birth-dose HBV vaccine. Two blood samples collected six months apart from HBV-exposed infants within their first year of life were tested for HBV DNA. Results: Of 144 women who were approached, 134 consented to participating (93% acceptance rate of HBV POC test). Six women tested positive for HBsAg (4.5%; 95% CI 0.99%–8.01%), all confirmed by laboratory testing. Two mothers, M1 and M4, were treated with TDF during their third trimester of pregnancy. Six HBV-exposed infants received the HBV vaccine within 24 hours of birth, of whom two were lost to follow-up and four (including the two born to M1 and M4) had undetectable levels of HBV DNA when tested at the two time points. Conclusion: We found that HBV screening using POC testing fulfilled the criteria considered necessary for implementation. It has acceptable performance, is inexpensive, reliable, and was well accepted by the study participants. Screening pregnant women as part of the HBV MTCT prevention strategy is therefore feasible in a South African clinical setting.

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