Hep B Blog

Tag Archives: Pregnancy and HBV

Ten Things People with Hepatitis B Need to Know in 2016

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In 2015, doctors continued to unlock the mysteries of hepatitis B and uncovered promising new treatments. Armed with new information, here are 10 things we can do in 2016 to safeguard our health and help prevent the spread of hepatitis B.

  1. Get monitored regularly. No one likes a blood draw or to be reminded they have hepatitis B, but it’s important that you’re tested annually or more often if you have a high viral load and/or signs of liver damage. There’s no cure yet, but there are effective treatment options with more in the pipeline. So be brave, protect your health, and go to the lab for a blood test.
  2. If you’ve been prescribed an antiviral, don’t forget to take it. Taking a pill every day is tedious and it’s tempting to skip it, but failing to take your daily antiviral reduces its effectiveness and can lead to drug resistance. The hepatitis B virus is a master at mutating to escape whatever is attacking it. Forgetting to take your daily pill can lead to an uptick in your viral load and liver damage. Stay strong, take your daily pill, and keep that virus undetectable.
  3. Face it, antivirals are a long-term commitment. Until a cure is developed, antivirals—either tenofovir (Viread) or entecavir (Baraclude)—are the best treatment to quickly reduce both viral load (HBV DNA) and liver damage. But they work for only as long as we take them, and once we start, we are usually committed to years of treatment. Quitting antivirals before we’ve achieved undetectable viral load and lost the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) often results in a resurgence of both viral load and liver damage. Antivirals are a long-term treatment that help prolong our lives.
  4. Demand to be screened for liver cancer. Some experts say current medical guidelines that recommend when we should be screened for liver cancer  don’t go far enough to protect us. So take charge of your health and ask for a liver cancer screen, which includes a semi-annual blood test and an ultrasound.  Hepatitis B-infected Asian men (or of Asian descent) over age 40 years and Asian women over age 50 years, patients with a family history of liver cancer, patients with cirrhosis, and Africans over the age of 20 should all be screened. Think you’re not at risk for cancer because you take antivirals? Think again. Antivirals help reduce liver damage, but if you’ve had cirrhosis or are older, the risk of liver cancer remains.
  5. If someone promises a new cure or treatment that sounds too good to be true….it probably is. In our search to be rid of hepatitis B, we may be tempted to yield to clever marketing and try a supplement that promises to cure us. But first, do your homework and practice precaution. To check out an herbal supplement, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s website to see what scientific evidence exists for a supplement and talk to your doctor. There is no magic bullet that will cure hepatitis B. Experts hope to find one soon, but for now be patient and stay skeptical. If you want to safeguard your health, eat healthy foods and avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
  6. Experts say a cure is coming … so stay informed about new drug developments and clinical trials. There is lots happening on the research front. To find out what drugs are in the development pipeline, visit the Hepatitis B Foundation’s Drug Watch page for the latest news. You can also find out if you qualify for a clinical trial. Expensive blood work, treatment medications, and doctor’s visits are usually free-of-charge for those accepted into a study. The foundation features a list of hepatitis B-related clinical trials that are recruiting patients in the U.S. and around the world at its Clinical Trials page. You could become part of the cure.
  7. Pregnant with hepatitis B? Get your viral load tested and ask your doctor about antivirals. In November, the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) for the first time recommended that pregnant women with viral loads (HBV DNA) higher than 200,000 IU/mL (or 1 million copies/mL) receive an antiviral (either tenofovir or telbivudine) starting at their 28th week of pregnancy. The antivirals won’t hurt you or your baby and will reduce the risk that your baby will be infected with hepatitis B to nearly zero, as long as your baby gets the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine and a dose of HBIG (hepatitis B antibodies) within 12 hours of birth.
  8. Fight discrimination against hepatitis B and know your rights. Hepatitis B should never be a barrier to the education or job you want. Sadly, ignorance and stigma remains in the U.S. and abroad. It depends on us, our friends, and our family, to stand up and fight for our civil rights. We can’t back down. If we don’t fight, who will?
  9. Practice safe sex and never re-use needles. Today, in some areas of the U.S., hepatitis B is increasing—even though a safe and effective vaccine exists. Unfortunately, not everyone is immunized and the infection is still getting transmitted sexually. In the midst of America’s heroin epidemic, it’s also spreading when syringes are re-used and shared. Do you want to end hepatitis B? Make sure your friends and family members know how to prevent sexually-transmitted infections (even if those conversations are challenging, their lives may depend on it) and support needle exchange programs in your region and state. Countless studies show that when needle exchange programs are available, HIV, hepatitis B and C rates decline! It saves lives and healthcare dollars!
  10. Be brave, disclose, and get your friends, family, and lovers screened for hepatitis B and vaccinated. Yes, it will be one of the hardest conversations you will ever have, but if you are infected with hepatitis B, you need to disclose your infection to people who may be at risk. If you just discovered you have chronic hepatitis B, which you may have contracted at birth, you need to tell your siblings and your mother and get them screened and immunized if needed. Dating someone, and about to take the next step? You need to disclose ahead of time and give them information and choices. It builds trust and it’s the right thing to do. You would want the same for yourself.

Continue reading "Ten Things People with Hepatitis B Need to Know in 2016"

New Hepatitis B Treatment Guidelines Revealed at AASLD 2015 Conference

IMG_1369

The American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD), the organization that defines how doctors should treat hepatitis B and other liver ailments, unveiled new hepatitis B treatment guidelines this week at its annual conference in San Francisco.

The new guidelines are published here.  Patients should review them and discuss any updates that address their individual conditions with their physicians. Continue reading "New Hepatitis B Treatment Guidelines Revealed at AASLD 2015 Conference"

Expert Calls for Viral Load Testing in All Pregnant Women with Hepatitis B

Dr. Ravi Jhaveri, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, talks to parents.
Dr. Ravi Jhaveri, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, talks to parents.

Today, all pregnant women are routinely screened for hepatitis B, but a growing number of doctors say this single test doesn’t go far enough to protect the health of women and children.

In a commentary published in the medical journal Pediatrics,  infectious disease specialist Dr. Ravi Jhaveri calls for a mandatory second test in pregnant women infected with hepatitis B. This test would measure the amount of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in her body (called viral load).

When women have high viral loads, their newborns can become infected even if they are immunized at birth and treated with HBIG (hepatitis B antibodies) to prevent infection. Continue reading "Expert Calls for Viral Load Testing in All Pregnant Women with Hepatitis B"

HBV Journal Review – September 2014

ChrisKHBF is pleased to connect our blog readers to Christine Kukka’s monthly HBV Journal Review that she writes for the HBV Advocate. The journal presents the
 latest in hepatitis B research, treatment, and prevention from recent academic and medical journals. This month, the following topics are explored:

  • New Study Finds HBV Genotype E Responds Poorly to Entecavir
  • HBV Genotypes Help Tell the Human Story of Slavery in the Americas
  • Researchers Find Tenofovir Increases Hip Bone Loss in Older Patients
  • Decline in HBV RNA Indicates Who Loses HBeAg During Antiviral Treatment
  •  Shortened Vaccination Schedule May Get More Drug Users Immunized
  • Primary Care Doctors Rarely Screen Patients for Cirrhosis
  • Tenofovir or Telbivudine Recommended for Pregnant Women with High Viral Loads
  • Access to Healthy Food Vital for HBV Patients, but Many Live in Food “Deserts”
  • Scientists Create Viable Liver Cells in a Lab for HBV Research
  • Nerve Damage Prompts Warning Against Telbivudine-Interferon Combo Treatment

HBV Journal Review

September 1, 2014
Volume 11, Issue 9
by Christine M. Kukka

New Study Finds HBV Genotype E Responds Poorly to Entecavir
Experts know some hepatitis B virus (HBV) strains called genotypes respond better to interferon treatment than others, but now scientists are discovering that genotypes respond differently to antiviral treatment too.

HBV genotypes are found in different regions of the world and each evolved over centuries to have slightly different molecular make-ups with unique traits. Some carry a higher risk of liver damage and cancer, while other genotypes are less virulent.

In a recent study, Italian researchers compared how well patients with genotypes A, D and E fared after three years of treatment with the antiviral entecavir (Baraclude). All of the patients tested negative for the hepatitis B “e” antigen (HBeAg-negative). The scientists measured hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) levels and HBV DNA (viral load) every three months during the first year of treatment and then every six months over the study period.

They found the rates of HBsAg declines resulting from antiviral treatment varied markedly between genotypes. They extrapolated how many years of entecavir treatment each genotype required before a patient would clear HBsAg and achieve undetectable viral load.

HBV genotype A: It would take on average 15.6 years of entecavir treatment for an HBeAg-negative patient with HBV genotype A to lose HBsAg. This genotype is found in northern Europe, North America, India and southern Africa.

HBV genotype D: It would take 17 years for genotype D patients to lose HBsAg. This strain is found primarily in Russia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean region, and India.

HBV genotype E: This genotype, found in Central Africa, responded the most poorly to entecavir. Scientists estimated it would take 24.6 years for these patients to lose HBsAg, according to the report published in the August issue of the Journal of Medical Virology.

Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25131947

HBV Genotypes Help Tell the Human Story of Slavery in the Americas
Because HBV genotypes develop in specific regions around the world, their distribution around the world today can help tell the story of mass human migrations, including the enslavement and forced migration of millions of Africans to Brazil since the 1500s.

Read the HBV Journal Review in its entirety here. 

HBV Journal Review – January 2014

HBF is pleased to connect our blog readers to Christine Kukka’s monthly HBV Journal Review that she writes for the HBV Advocate. The journal presents the
 latest in hepatitis B research, treatment, and prevention from recent academic and medical journals. This month, the following topics are explored: Continue reading "HBV Journal Review – January 2014"

HBV Journal Review – July 2013

HBF is pleased to connect our blog readers to Christine Kukka’s monthly HBV Journal Review that she writes for the HBV Advocate. The journal presents the
latest in hepatitis B research, treatment, and prevention from recent academic and medical journals. This month, the following topics are explored:

*Experts Describe When to Treat Pregnant Women with Antivirals
Does pregnancy worsen hepatitis B?
When should pregnant women be treated?
Which antivirals are safe to use during pregnancy?
What if women have elevated ALTs before becoming pregnant and have never         been treated?
What about women with normal ALTs and high viral loads?
Is it safe to use antivirals during the entire pregnancy?
Monitoring recommendations after delivery
Can a woman taking antivirals breastfeed?
* Half of Patients Treated Long-Term with Tenofovir Lose HBeAg
*Even Patients with High Viral Load Lose HBeAg with Tenofovir
*New Type of Interferon Effective in Phase 2 Hepatitis B Trial
*Majority of Hepatitis B Patients Have Vitamin D Deficiency
*But Patients with Healthy Vitamin D Levels Are More Likely to Clear HBsAg
*Activists Develop a National Plan to Eradicate Hepatitis B in the U.S.
*New Guidelines Urge Britain’s Doctors to Improve Hepatitis B Care
*Measuring HBsAg Levels May Identify Fibrosis and Avoid Liver Biopsies
*HBsAg Levels May Also Predict Cancer Risk in HBeAg-negative Patients

HBV Journal Review


July 1, 2013, Vol 10, no 7
by Christine M. Kukka

Experts Describe When to Treat Pregnant Women with Antivirals
Two U.S. hepatitis B experts have crafted guidelines for doctors to use when deciding when to treat pregnant women infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) with antivirals in order to safeguard the women’s health and prevent infection of newborns.

More than half of new hepatitis B infections result from mother-to-child (vertical) transmission and despite immediate immunization and administration of HBIG (hepatitis antibodies), about 30% of infants born to women with high viral loads become infected. Additionally, women who want to become pregnant may already be treated with antivirals because of liver damage.  There is little medical guidance on whether treatment is safe over the entire pregnancy.

Does pregnancy worsen hepatitis B? Generally it does not unless the woman has cirrhosis (severe liver scarring.) Studies show a pregnant woman’s viral load generally does not increase over a pregnancy, but after the baby is born and the woman’s hormone levels change (akin to a sudden decline in steroids), some women experience a “flare” and their alanine transaminase (ALT) levels may increase due to moderate liver cell damage. Because of these flares, doctors must monitor new mothers carefully for several weeks after childbirth.

When should pregnant women be treated? Starting in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, antiviral treatment is recommended when women have high viral loads—exceeding 1 million copies per milliliter or 200,000 international units per milliliter. However, if women are already receiving antiviral treatment when they become pregnant, treatment should probably continue over the pregnancy to prevent worsening liver disease.

Which antivirals are safe to use during pregnancy? The experts recommend tenofovir (Viread) in the event the woman continues to need antiviral treatment because this drug has a very low rate of drug resistance, or telbivudine (Tyzeka). Both have been shown to be safe and cause no birth defects when used in pregnant women infected with HIV or HBV.

Continue reading about this and additional studies…


Celebrate Mother’s Day by Breaking the Cycle of Hepatitis B Transmission From Mother to Baby

Great blog written by Corinna Dan, RN, MPH, Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, HHS , discussing the strategy to eliminate perinatal transmission of hepatitis B in the U.S. In many parts of the world, transmission from an HBV infected mother to her baby is the most common mode of transmission.  If you are a pregnant woman, please ask your doctor to screen you for hepatitis B. If you learn you have hepatitis B, talk to your doctor to be sure your baby receives appropriate prophylaxis within 12 hours of birth so you can break the cycle of transmission from mother to baby. Happy Mothers Day! 

Eliminating Perinatal Transmission of Hepatitis B: More Than Just a Test 

Hepatitis B in the U.S.

Nationally, new hepatitis B infections have been reduced by 82% since 1991 because of the availability of safe and effective vaccines, as well as improved prevention in healthcare settings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis B infection. Unfortunately, many of these people became infected before the widespread availability of the hepatitis B vaccine in the early 1980s. Most are unaware of their infection, which places them at greater risk for severe complications of the disease, and for transmitting the virus to others. For women of childbearing age, this lack of awareness also increases the likelihood of transmitting hepatitis B to their infants.

Perinatal hepatitis B – spread from an infected mother to her infant at the time of birth – is estimated to account for 800-1,000 new infections each year in the United States. Unfortunately, this number of annual new, preventable infections has remained unchanged in recent years, which is why the elimination of mother-to-infant transmission of hepatitis B is one of the main goals of the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. As the Plan observes, the persistent annual number of perinatal hepatitis B cases is particularly concerning because approximately 90% of HBV-infected newborns develop chronic infection; up to 25% of these children will die of cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer later in life.

Tackling Perinatal Hepatitis B

To achieve the goal of eliminating perinatal HBV, the Action Plan calls for the provision of postexposure prophylaxis (i.e., hepatitis B immune globulin and hepatitis B vaccine) to all infants born to HBV-infected women, a strategy consistent with the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in its “Comprehensive Immunization Strategy to Eliminate Transmission of Hepatitis B Virus Infection in the United States.” This recommended treatment is to be provided within 12 hours of birth followed by timely completion of the rest of the three-dose hepatitis B vaccine series, to prevent the infant from contracting hepatitis B. The Action Plan and ACIP also observe that care coordination is needed to ensure that infants born to HBV-infected women receive the services needed to protect them against hepatitis B.

A vital partner in these efforts to eliminate mother-to-infant transmission of hepatitis B is CDC’s Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Program (PHBPP) which supports activities in all 50 states, six cities, and five territories. The PHBPP was established in collaboration with state/local health departments and healthcare providers to promote use of the available tools – prenatal testing and vaccines – to reduce perinatal HBV transmission. The program works to identify pregnant women who are infected and provides case management services to ensure that infants receive the appropriate vaccines after birth to help prevent perinatal transmission. This program has been successful, ensuring that 95% of the identified infants born to infected mothers and case managed by the program received hepatitis B immune globulin and the first dose of hepatitis B vaccine within one day of birth and 83% of these infants complete the hepatitis B series by 12 months of age. In addition, whenever possible, the mother is counseled about hepatitis B and encouraged to talk with her healthcare provider for a full HBV evaluation. The program also seeks to identify household and sexual contacts of women who test HBV-positive – CDC reports that in 2011 the programs identified 9,681 such contacts – providing prevention information and recommending screening.

Despite these successful outcomes, challenges remain; the PHBPP estimates it identifies and case manages only about half of the expected births to hepatitis B infected women annually. Although hepatitis B screening is recommended for all pregnant women as part of routine prenatal care, not all women are screened. Some women do not seek or remain in prenatal care. In other cases, even when HBV screening occurs, health departments are not informed of screening results that reveal a pregnant woman is infected with hepatitis B – in some cases this is because such reporting is not required in that jurisdiction, in other cases it is an error or oversight. Under these circumstances, the health department cannot connect the expectant mother and her family to the services available through the PHBPP.

Another key support to efforts to eliminate perinatal HBV transmission is the implementation of provisions of the Affordable Care Act that will help improve prenatal hepatitis B screening. Under the Affordable Care Act, the hepatitis B test for pregnant women is among the Preventive Services that new health insurance plans issued after September 23, 2010 are required to cover without the consumer having to pay a copayment or co-insurance or meet her deductible. By making hepatitis screening more widely accessible and eliminating cost barriers, the healthcare law will also help bring us closer to the Action Plan’s goal of eliminating perinatal transmission of HBV.

In order to further reduce the number of infants who are perinatally infected with hepatitis B, healthcare providers, practices, and hospitals that care for pregnant women need to increase awareness and efforts to accurately report hepatitis B-infected pregnant women and refer the families to the PHBPP.

What Can Healthcare Providers Do?

Healthcare providers play a key role in eliminating perinatal hepatitis B. Steps that healthcare providers can take include:

  • Ensure that your practice is collaborating with the public health department to report women who are chronically infected so that their infants can benefit from case management. The CDC viral hepatitis reporting form [PDF 46KB] is available online.
  • Educate your patients about hepatitis B and listen to their concerns; the CDC has great educational materials available for patients.
  • Work with your local hospitals and birthing centers to ensure that they are following recommended policies and procedures.
  • Reach out to your state/local Perinatal Hepatitis B Coordinator if you have any questions or need additional assistance to implement the CDC recommendations.

What Can Pregnant Women Do?

  • Ask your healthcare provider if you were tested for hepatitis B and what the result of the test was.
  • Learn more about hepatitis B to make sure your new infant receives the preventive services needed to prevent hepatitis B infection at birth and throughout your child’s life.
  • If you learn that you are living with hepatitis B, check out the CDC’s frequently asked questions and talk with your healthcare provider to find out what you should do to stay healthy and ensure that you will be there to nurture and watch your child grow.

On this Mother’s Day during Hepatitis Awareness Month, please take the opportunity to learn more about hepatitis B and what steps you can take to realize the goal of eliminating mother-to-infant transmission of this preventable disease.

Please link to the original article if you would like to listen to this blog in it’s entirety.

 

High Viral Load, HBeAg Positivity Increased Risk for Mother-to-Infant HBV Transmission

The study published by Healio Hepatology, March 8, 2013 discusses the increased risk of mother-to-infant transmission in HBV positive moms who are HBeAg positive and have a high viral load. Current prophylaxis, where infants of HBsAg+ moms receive the first shot of the HBV vaccine and a shot of HBIG within 12 hours of birth, is successful greater than 90% of the time. However, according to the study, HBeAg+ pregnant moms with a viral load above 10cp/mL(10,000,000 cp/mL) will transmit the virus to their infant despite prophylaxis. Since a particularly elevated viral load appears to determine the failure of current prophylaxis, the need for additional screening for these women and revised intervention strategies is necessary to prevent transmission to their babies at birth.

If you are a pregnant mom that is HBsAg+, please see a liver specialist for further evaluation to determine your HBeAg status and your HBV DNA viral load. If you are HBeAg + and have a high viral load, (a viral load near the 10,000,000 cp/ml threshold) you will want to talk to your liver specialist to determine if you and your baby would benefit from antiviral therapy in order to prevent transmission of HBV to your newborn. Although there are no official guidelines or recommendations, Registry data shows medications for hepatitis B appear safe during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor to see if this is a good option for you and your baby.

If you are a pregnant woman, please read and print HBF’s Chronic Hepatitis B in Pregnancy, and give it to the doctor who will be caring for you during your pregnancy. Sadly, IOM data shows HBV+ women in the U.S. are not always identified and educated about their HBV, and an opportunity for prophylaxis may be missed despite CDC recommendations that ALL infants receive the first dose of the HBV vaccine prior to hospital discharge.

If you live in a developing country, there may be no guidelines in place that automatically screen pregnant women for hepatitis B. Once again, read and print a copy of “Chronic Hepatitis B in Pregnancy” for your doctor. Insist you are screened for HBV, and if you are HBsAg+, please be sure prophylaxis will be available at the hospital where you will give birth to your baby. If you find you are HBeAg+, with a high viral load, please speak to a liver specialist to see if an antiviral is an option for you to prevent HBV transmission to your baby. Don’t’ forget to have your baby tested at 18 months to ensure your baby is HBV free.

*Please note you can convert copies per milliliter (cp/ml) to IU/mL for the article below using WHO’s international standard where 1 IU/mL = 5.2 copies/mL. Please ask your doctor or your lab if you have specific questions regarding the conversion.


Infants born to mothers with a high hepatitis B viral load, particularly those positive for hepatitis B e antigen, are at high risk for contracting hepatitis despite immunoprophylaxis, according to recent results.

Researchers evaluated 303 mother-infant pairs in which mothers tested positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). Maternal viral load and hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) status were determined, and children were tested for HBsAg at ages 4 to 8 months (n=250) and/or 1 to 3 years (n=53 for an initial test; n=183 for a follow-up test). All children received HBV vaccine within the first week of birth and at 1 and 6 months, with a 100% completion rate; children born to mothers who tested positive for HBeAg received hepatitis B immunoglobulin within 24 hours of birth.

HBeAg-positive mothers (81 cases) had higher viral loads than those who did not (7.4 ± 1.9 log10 copies/mL vs. 2.7 ± 1.4 log10 copies/mL; P<.0001 for difference). Chronic HBV infection was identified in 10 children, all born to HBeAg-positive mothers with high viral loads (range 6.5-9.5 log10 copies/mL), and all with the same HBV genotypes and subtypes as their mothers.

Investigators identified a significant association between maternal viral load and a child’s risk for infection via multivariate analysis, after adjusting for factors including age; birth type; infant gender, weight and gestational age, and feeding practices (adjusted OR=3.49; 95% CI, 1.63-.7.48 per log10 copy/mL increase). Predictive rates for maternally transmitted HBV infection were found to be statistically significant at 7 (6.6%; P=.033), 8 (14.6%; P=.001), and 9 (27.7%; P<.001) log10 copies/mL.

“High maternal viral load is the most important factor causing maternally transmitted HBV infection, and is significantly correlated with maternal HBeAg status,” the researchers wrote. “Our predictive model including multiple risk factors showed that children with a maternal viral load above 10,000,000 to 100,000,000 copies/mL (or would have a significant risk of infection despite immunoprophylaxis. Our data provide important information for the rational design of future screening and intervention strategies to further reduce maternally transmitted HBV infection.”

Wen W-H. J Hepatol. 2013;doi:10.1016/j.jhep.2013.02.015.

March 8, 2013