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Reuters Health Information (2007-07-25): Father-to-child hepatitis B transmission documented in Japan


Father-to-child hepatitis B transmission documented in Japan

Last Updated: 2007-07-25 12:46:34 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Molecular evidence indicates that father-to-child transmission is an "important route" of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in Japan, Japanese researchers warn in the July issue of the Journal of Medical Virology.

"At present, only high-risk infants born to chronic HBV-infected mothers are given HBV vaccine," note Dr. Hitoshi Tajiri, of Osaka General Medical Center, and colleagues. Their research, they say, provides "substantial evidence" that fathers can and often do transmit HBV to their children.

Using homology analyses and phylogenetic analyses of two coding regions of the HBV genome (the S and X gene), Dr. Tajiri's group showed that eight children from five families contracted HBV from their fathers.

"The nucleotide homology among the five sets of fathers and children was quite high (99.3-100%)," they report. "A phylogenetic tree constructed on the 13 nucleotide sequences showed that all five sets of fathers and children were grouped into the same cluster with high bootstrap values."

Based on their findings, Dr. Tajiri and colleagues "strongly" recommend that Japan's public health agencies "re-examine the current policy of prevention of HBV transmission for children as soon as possible so that universal vaccination against HBV infection is immediately instituted in Japan for all children, as WHO has recommended."

It's also "intriguing," they note, that all of the mothers from the five families studied seemed to have contracted HBV infection, most likely via sexual relations with their husbands, and were cured. All of them were negative for hepatitis B surface antigen and positive for anti-HBV antibodies at the time of the study.

This suggests that "spouses of HBV-infected husbands should also be protected against HBV infection," the investigators write.

J Med Virol 2007;79:922-926.

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