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J Med Virol. 2009 Mar;81(3):406-12. doi: 10.1002/jmv.21418.

Increased detection of HBV DNA in HBsAg-positive and HBsAg-negative South African HIV/AIDS patients enrolling for highly active antiretroviral therapy at a Tertiary Hospital.

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HIV and Hepatitis Research Unit, Department of Virology, University of Limpopo, Medunsa Campus, Pretoria, South Africa.


This retrospective study investigated the prevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in 192 stored sera from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive South African patients initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART), and explored the implications of HBV-HIV co-infection on laboratory diagnosis of HBV. HBV serology (HBsAg, anti-HBs and anti-HBc) and nested HBV PCR assays targeting the HBV polymerase gene were performed, with HBV DNA positive samples being quantified with Cobas Taqman HBV test 48 assay (Roche Diagnostics). The study found that 63% (121/192) of patients had past or present HBV infection, and 40.6% (78/192) had detectable HBV DNA. Also, 22.9% (44/192) of patients were HBsAg positive and HBV DNA positive, while 23% (34/148) of HBsAG negatives had occult HBV infections. Of the 78 HBV DNA positive samples, 62.8% had viral loads ranging from 10(2) to > or =10(8) IU/ml, and 37.2% had HBV viral loads <200 IU/ml. There was a statistically significant positive association between HBsAg-positivity and high viral loads, with 27% (12/44) of HBsAg positives having HBV viral loads between 10(4) and > or =10(8) IU/ml, compared to only 5.9% (2/34) of HBsAg negatives (relative risk: 4.64; 95% confidence interval: 1.11, 19.35; chi-square P-value = 0.015). The study shows that the majority of HIV/AIDS patients initiating ART have either acute or chronic HBV infections, and further confirms that HIV remains a risk factor for occult HBV infections in South African patients as previously shown. The findings strongly support HBV screening in all HIV-positive patients initiating ART in South Africa, considering that current ART regimens include drugs with anti-HBV activity (e.g., lamivudine).

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