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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 4-16

Intrafamilial occurrence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and the profile of liver disease in close relatives of patients with HBV infection

Department of Gastroenterology, Calicut Medical College, Kozhikode, India

Correspondence Address:
R Kavitha
Department of Gastroenterology, Calicut Medical College, Kozhikode 673008
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-9747.190075

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Aim: To evaluate the occurrence of Hepatitis B surface antigen positivity in family members of HBsAg-positive patients, to assess the profile of HBV infection in them, to identify possible risk factors in a close family environment, and to evaluate the burden of liver disease in these family members. Materials and Methods: All Hepatitis B surface antigen-positive patients who attended the Liver Clinic of the Gastroenterology Department of the Calicut Medical College, from January 2009 to December 2010, were studied. The index case was evaluated with HBeAg, anti HBeAb, HBV DNA, liver function tests (LFTs), ultrasonogram of the abdomen, and alpha fetoprotein, as also liver biopsy in indicated cases. The index patient was interviewed and a detailed history with special emphasis on probable risk factors was taken. All first-degree relatives and relatives staying in the same house of the index case were screened for HBsAg. The relatives who tested negative for the infection were advised HBV vaccination, while the relatives who tested positive were evaluated for disease activity using LFTs, HBeAg, anti-HBeAb, HBV DNA, ultrasonogram of abdomen, alpha fetoprotein, and biopsy as per indication. Results: There were 376 index cases available for the study, 230 males (61.17%) and 146 females (38.83%). Male : Female ratio was 1.57 : 1. Mean age was 32.8 years (range 6-76). Seventy-six persons (20.21%) were detected to be HBsAg-positive during various preprocedural screenings, 42 (11.17%) were detected during medical checkup for jobs in gulf countries, and 30 (7.98%) were detected during screening for blood donation. Among the female patients, 88 (60.27%) were detected during antenatal screening. Ninety-six patients (25.53%) did not turn up after the initial visit. Among the remaining 280 patients, 48 (17.14%) were HBeAg positive. LFT abnormalities were seen in 153 (54.64%) cases. Out of 280 patients, 46 (16.43%) had established cirrhosis and 10 (3.57%) had HCC. Twenty-one cases (7.5%) presented as acute hepatitis. Complete family screening was done for 173 (61.78%) index cases. Out of the 280 index cases, 47 (16.79%) patients were reluctant for family screening. Among the 173 cases whose family members were screened, 95 (54.91%) had at least one family member who was HBsAg positive. Among the 95 index cases with at least one family member affected, 25 (26.31%) were HBeAg positive . On HBsAg screening of the relatives, it was found that brothers were affected in 45 (26.01%), sisters in 33 (19.08%), mothers in 18 (10.40%), fathers in 19 (10.98%), sons in nine (6.08%), and daughters in two (1.35%) cases. Ten (5.78%) index cases had second-degree relatives affected. Among a total of 173 index cases screened, 148 were married and among them 4.72% of the spouses were found to be HBsAg positive on screening. A total of 1115 family members of the 173 index cases were screened, of whom 162 (14.53%) were HBsAg positive. Of the 162 family members who were HBsAg positive, complete evaluation to find the stage of liver disease was performed in 43 family members. Among them 31 (72.09%) had LFT abnormality, four (9.3%) had underlying cirrhosis, and one had HCC. Twelve cases (27.9%) were HBeAg positive. Even though HBV screening was advised for all family contacts of the index cases, there was not much enthusiasm among the patients to get their relatives screened. Conclusion: The occurrence of hepatitis B positivity among family members of HBsAg-positive patients was 14.53% in our study. This prevalence was twenty-eight times more than the community prevalence of HBV infection in our population, which was earlier found to be 0.52% by our group. Brothers and sisters were the most commonly affected group, as against mothers who were positive for HBsAg, only 11.3%. Hence, the infection among siblings and parents may also be due to horizontal transmission. Index cases of 16.79% were totally reluctant for family screening due to various reasons like social stigma, high cost of the investigations, and reluctance to believe that they were having a problem, because they were asymptomatic. In view of the very high occurrence of HBV infection in family members, there is an urgent need for better counseling and vigorous screening of family members, to identify asymptomatic cases in the community and target this pool for curative as well as preventive measures.

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