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.