The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has released a draft recommendation that pregnant women be screened for hepatitis B virus infection at the first prenatal visit to prevent infection in newborns.
“The number of pregnant women who have the hepatitis B virus (HBV) has increased by more than 5% every year for the past 2 decades, despite the fact that we have an effective way to screen for the infection and prevent it from being passed from mothers to their babies,” Melissa Simon, MD, MPH, the George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology, the vice chair of clinical research in the department of obstetrics and gynecology and professor of preventative medicine and medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told Infectious Diseases in Children. “All physicians who care for pregnant women should recommit themselves to screening for HBV at the first prenatal visit.”
The USPSTF reviewed data from a nationally representative sample that showed a prevalence of maternal HBV infection of 85.8 cases per 100,000 deliveries between 1998 and 2011, or 0.09% of live-born singleton deliveries in the U.S.
People who are infected with HBV during infancy or childhood are more likely to progress to chronic infection, which could lead to long-term morbidity and mortality by predisposing a person to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer, according to the USPSTF statement.
The USPSTF noted that it used a reaffirmation deliberation process to update its 2009 recommendation for screening for HBV infection in pregnant women.
The USTSTF said it found “convincing evidence” that universal prenatal screening for HBV infection substantially reduced perinatal transmission of HBV.
“By screening and treating pregnant women, we can protect babies from lifelong chronic diseases, such as liver disease, and can also help their mothers get appropriate care throughout their pregnancy,” Simon said. “We hope this recommendation will reaffirm the importance of HBV screening, so pediatricians will ultimately see a decrease in the number of babies who surfer the long-term consequences of HBV.”
By Bruce Thiel