England eliminates mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B

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In doing so, the country met the new target of the World Health Organization.

The United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced the news yesterday that the country had eliminated transmission of hepatitis from mother to child.

“We are pleased WHO has confirmed England has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, thanks to universal screening and immunization benefitting more than 9 in 10 infants,” John Stewart, director for Specialized Commissioning and interim director of Commercial Medicines at NHS England, said in a statement.

Pregnant women who have hepatitis B can pass the infection onto their baby around the time of birth, and this is one of the most common routes of infection. To reduce the chances of a baby developing the infection, since the late 1990s all pregnant women in England have been offered an antenatal blood test for hepatitis B (as well as HIV and syphilis).

For women who test positive for hepatitis B, their newborn babies are offered a course of hepatitis B vaccination starting at birth. In addition to the targeted infant vaccination program, in 2017 the UK introduced universal infant hepatitis B immunization within the 6-in-1 vaccine at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age.

In 2021 quarterly coverage for the 3 doses was 91 to 92 percent, exceeding the WHO target of 90%. Through this successful 3-pronged approach, England has now met the WHO criteria for elimination of mother to child transmission. Achieving this is a key milestone in the WHO’s strategy for the overall elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.

An estimated 206,000 people currently are living with chronic hepatitis B infection in England.

“With the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, very low hepatitis related death rates and continued reduction of chronic hepatitis C levels, we are on our way to our goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C in England by 2030,” Dr Sema Mandal, deputy director for Blood Borne Viruses, UKHSA, said in a statement.

This article was published by our sister publication Contagion Live.

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