24 Jul USPSTF: All Pregnant Women Should Be Screened for Hepatitis B
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Melissa Simon, M.D., M.P.H.
George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology
Vice Chair of Clinical Research, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Professor of Preventive Medicine and Medical Social Sciences
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus, or HBV. HBV causes liver disease, which can be either a mild, short-term illness, or a serious, lifelong issue.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has reaffirmed its 2009 recommendation that clinicians screen all pregnant people for HBV at their first prenatal visit. This is an A recommendation.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings of the underlying studies?
Response: Although babies are now routinely vaccinated for HBV, rates of maternal HBV infection have increased by more than 5 percent each year since 1998. Early screening is important because it can help people who are HBV-positive can get treatment sooner and spur interventions to prevent the virus from spreading to newborns.
When babies are born to mothers with HBV, they receive special antibodies along with an earlier dose of the HBV vaccine. This combination of interventions has been proven to reduce the likelihood of HBV transmission from mother to baby.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: All pregnant people should be screened for HBV as early as possible in pregnancy, such as at the first prenatal visit.
People who screen positive should be referred to appropriate care. While there is no medication available to cure an acute infection of HBV, people with chronic HBV should consult with a doctor and be monitored for signs of liver disease. Babies of mothers who test positive for HBV should receive both the HBV vaccine and an additional medication within 12 hours of birth.
By identifying HBV in people who are pregnant and taking actions to prevent the transmission to their babies, we can help reduce the spread—and the potentially serious, life-long complications—of this disease.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: More research is needed on how to effectively care for pregnant people who are most at risk of passing HBV to their babies. Additional data from the Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program would also be useful to provide insight into how the program is working to better support pregnant people and their babies. Finally, it would be helpful to know more about the use of antiviral medication during pregnancy to reduce transmission from pregnant person to baby.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: This recommendation reaffirms the Task Force’s 2009 final recommendation on the same topic, and screening for HBV in pregnancy has been standard of care for years. Anyone who is concerned about their—or their newborn’s—risk for HBV should discuss this with their doctor.
Anyone who is pregnant, or think they might be pregnant, should seek the appropriate prenatal care as soon as possible so they can start getting important preventive services, including screening for HBV.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for Hepatitis B Virus Infection in Pregnant Women: US Preventive Services Task Force Reaffirmation Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2019;322(4):349–354. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.9365
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