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Am J Pathol. 1975 Dec;81(3):669-82.

The relation of infection with the hepatitis B agent to primary hepatic carcinoma.


In Asia, Africa, and other tropical areas, primary hepatic carcinoma (PHC) is associated with liver cirrhosis of the postnecrotic (macronodular) type. Chronic viral hepatitis is likely to be the cause of this cirrhosis in many patients from regions where chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) is common. More than 95% of patients with hepatoma (in Mali and Senegal) have evidence of infection with HBV, a much higher frequency than in controls. Thirty-nine of 62 patients with PHC had hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) (controls, 8 of 98) and 56 of 63 (controls, 26 of 100) had antibody against hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc). In earlier studies, we demonstrated a maternal effect of HBsAg. If the mother has the antigen and the father does not, the children are much more likely to also have HBsAg than if the father has the antigen and the mother does not (93/161 = 57.8% when mother is positive vs. 28/135 = 20.7% when father is positive; P = 0.6 X 10(-10)). Studies in Greece and in the Solomon Islands show that presence of HBsAg in parents affects the sex ratio of the offspring of the mating. This implies that the presence of the agent in a parent can affect the fetus early in life. Parental studies in the west African hepatoma patients showed that there is a very high frequency of HBsAg in mothers (71.6%), while the frequency in fathers (18.5%) is significantly less. This suggests that the development of hepatoma in offspring is related to infection in parents. Several years ago, we described a vaccine which may be useful in preventing infection with hepatitis B. Strategies are discussed which might be effective in preventing the development of carriers with, it is hoped, a consequent decrease in the frequency of HBV carriers, chronic hepatitis, and primary hepatic carcinoma. The strategy would employ methods for decreasing the frequency of the agent in the environment by the application of public health methods including the vaccination of appropriate newborns and other members of the population.

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