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Sexual transmission of hepatitis B

Atkins, Mark; Nolan, Marianne

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: February 2005 - Volume 18 - Issue 1 - p 67–72
Sexually transmitted diseases and uninary tract infections

Purpose of review Hepatitis B virus infection is prevalent worldwide and is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality particularly in Asia. Adults chronically infected with hepatitis B virus remain a significant potential source of sexually transmitted hepatitis B. The purpose of this article is to review the recent literature relating to hepatitis B virus transmission with particular emphasis on sexual transmission and efforts to prevent spread.

Recent findings The introduction of hepatitis B virus vaccine and the implementation of universal childhood vaccination for hepatitis B in some countries have led to a dramatic reduction in the number of children with chronic hepatitis B. However, recent reports suggest that we are not as successful in preventing infection by sexual transmission. It is clear that sexual transmission of hepatitis B virus is still widespread and is a major problem in certain high-risk groups such as men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users, prisoners and sex workers. Significant problems remain with respect to education and vaccination within these groups.

Summary Hepatitis B virus remains a major health burden but it is preventable by education and vaccination. Greater resources are required to expand vaccination to the at-risk, sexually active adult populations if the World Health Organization ideal of hepatitis B virus eradication is to be realized and the burden of hepatitis B virus-related morbidity and mortality contained.

Abbreviations HBV: hepatitis B virus; MSM: men who have sex with men; STD: sexually transmitted disease.

Department of Microbiology, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Fulham Road, London, UK

Correspondence to Dr Mark Atkins, Consultant Virologist, Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, Department of Microbiology, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, Fulham Road, London SW10 9NH, UK Tel: +44 20 8746 8227; fax: +44 20 8237 5286; e-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.