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Absence of chronicity in infants born to immunized mothers with occult HBV infection in Taiwan

  • Ming-Wei Lai
    Correspondence
    Corresponding authors. Address: Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Department of Pediatrics, Liver Research Center, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, No.5, Fuxing St., Guishan Dist., Taoyuan City 333, Taiwan. Tel: 886-3-3281200 ext 8969, fax: 886-3-3288957
    Affiliations
    Department of Pediatrics, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou Branch and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan

    Liver Research Center, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou Branch and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan
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  • Yao-Lung Chang
    Affiliations
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou Branch and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan
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  • Po-Jen Cheng
    Affiliations
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou Branch and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan
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  • Ho-Yen Chueh
    Affiliations
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou Branch and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan
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  • Shun-Chih Chang
    Affiliations
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou Branch and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan
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  • Chau-Ting Yeh
    Correspondence
    Liver Research Center, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, No.5, Fuxing St., Guishan Dist., Taoyuan City 333, Taiwan; Tel: 886-3-3281200 ext 8102, fax: 886-3-3282824.
    Affiliations
    Department of Hepatogastroenterology, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou Branch and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan

    Liver Research Center, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Linkou Branch and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan
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Published:February 13, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2022.01.030

      Highlights

      • HBsAg carrier rates have fallen below 2% in the Taiwanese population born within the last 35 years.
      • Approximately 5% of vaccinated individuals had occult HBV infection (OBI).
      • <1% of vaccinated pregnant mothers were HBsAg carriers, whereas around 6% had OBI in the present study.
      • It was possible for mothers with OBI to transmit HBV to their babies.
      • Viremia was cleared 1 year after completing the hepatitis B vaccination series.

      Background & Aims

      In the Taiwanese population born in the universal vaccination era, HBsAg carrier rates have fallen below 2%, while approximately 5% develop occult hepatitis B infection (OBI). However, the potential for transmission from mothers with OBI to their infants has not been well studied. We aimed to investigate whether mothers with OBI could transmit HBV to their babies.

      Methods

      A total of 253 pregnant women who were born after July 1986 and had been fully vaccinated against HBV during infancy were recruited from a tertiary hospital in Northern Taiwan. HBV serology and DNA levels were determined. Babies born to mothers with OBI were followed-up until 1 year of age. The surface genes were sequenced.

      Results

      HBV infection was documented in 18 vaccinated mothers, 2 of whom were HBsAg-reactive (0.79 %). Seventeen were positive for HBV DNA, among whom 16 (6.32%) presented with OBI with a median DNA level of 145 IU/ml (interquartile range: 37.8–657.3 IU/ml). Eleven babies born to 10 mothers with OBI were recruited. Three babies were HBsAg-reactive, and 2 were positive for HBV DNA (17.0 and 212.0 IU/ml). Seven mothers with OBI carried multiple surface gene variants. Two transiently infected babies harbored variants originating from their mother’s HBV quasi-species. All infants received complete hepatitis B vaccines. At 12 months of age, none of the babies were positive for HBsAg or HBV DNA.

      Conclusions

      It was possible for mothers with OBI to transmit HBV to their babies, who consequently harbored surface gene variants originating from their mothers’ minor variants. Viremia was cleared 1 year after completing the hepatitis B vaccination series.

      Lay summary

      Since initiating the hepatitis B vaccination program in Taiwan, the rate of young individuals (i.e. born after 1986) carrying the HBV surface antigen has fallen below 2%, although around 5% of vaccinated individuals develop occult HBV infections. Herein, we show that pregnant mothers with occult HBV infections can transmit HBV to their offspring. However, no infant had sustained infection at 1 year of age having completed a full HBV vaccination series.

      Graphical abstract

      Keywords

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