Task force recommends hep B screening for high-risk people

May 27, 2014 by Dennis Thompson, Healthday Reporter
Task force recommends hep B screening for high-risk people
Vaccine, antiviral treatments make it worthwhile to spot chronic condition early, researcher says.

(HealthDay)—Doctors should regularly screen people at high risk for contracting the hepatitis B virus, which causes chronic illness and can lead to liver cancer if left untreated, a national panel of health experts has recommended.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised that specific groups of people should undergo screening for hepatitis B, including:

  • People born in countries with a high rate of infection, mainly in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
  • Those who share risk factors similar to those for HIV, including , men who have sex with men, and people living with or having sex with someone with a hepatitis B infection.
  • Patients with a weakened immune system or who are undergoing treatment for .

There is no cure for hepatitis B. But a vaccine now exists and antiviral treatments have improved to the point that the virus can be kept in check, said Dr. Roger Chou, an assistant professor at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland and director of the Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center.

"We have treatments that are effective at suppressing the virus and at improving abnormalities in the liver, so we can prevent some of the damage that occurs due to chronic hepatitis B," said Chou, who served as lead author for the evidence review that formed the basis of the task force's recommendation.

Currently, as many as a quarter of people with chronic hepatitis B infections die from cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver or .

"The evidence was pretty clear that there's a significant benefit for people who are at high risk," Dr. Mark Ebell, a task force member and an associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Georgia, Athens.

The recommendation statement is published in the May 26 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Hepatitis B is becoming less common in the United States due to the success of vaccination programs started in the 1990s, Ebell said.

But there are still as many as 2.2 million people in the United States who are chronically infected with hepatitis B. The task force hopes that screening programs will help get these folks the treatment they need.

The task force previously issued a recommendation that all pregnant women in the United States should be screened for hepatitis B.

Another study in the same journal found that treating all babies born of mothers infected with hepatitis B with immunotherapy right after delivery pays off.

Kaiser Permanente researchers gave infants in the study the hepatitis B vaccine and antibodies within 12 hours of birth, and found the babies were much less likely to end up infected with the virus.

By detecting hepatitis B in expecting mothers and providing treatment to their babies, the doctors were able to reduce infection rates to 0.75 infected newborns out of every 100 births between 1997 and 2010. Prior to this approach, as many as 40 percent of infants born to infected mothers developed chronic hepatitis B infection, the researchers said.

The new task force screening recommendations are consistent with guidelines previously issued by the CDC and the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, Ebell said.

People who fall into one of these high-risk groups should ask their doctor for screening, Chou said, noting that there's a health benefit even for those who test negative for hepatitis B.

"If you're at high risk and you test negative, you can get the vaccine and then be protected against contracting B," he said.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine. They make recommendations about clinical such as screenings, counseling services and preventive medications.

The Affordable Care Act has given new muscle to the , requiring health plans to cover for free the preventive services and screenings recommended by the panel.

Explore further: Hepatitis B screening proposed for all high-risk adults

More information: Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on hepatitis B.

Related Stories

Hepatitis B screening proposed for all high-risk adults

February 11, 2014
(HealthDay)—Adults at high risk for hepatitis B should be screened for the viral infection, according to a draft recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Screen all baby boomers for hepatitis C, expert panel says

June 24, 2013
(HealthDay)—All adults born between 1945 and 1965—the baby boom generation—should be screened for the hepatitis C virus along with injection-drug users and anyone transfused before 1992, according to new recommendations ...

U.S. task force: Baby boomers should be tested for hepatitis C

November 26, 2012
(HealthDay)—A U.S. task force suggests that people at high risk for the hepatitis C virus should be screened, which includes those with a history of intravenous drug use and those who received blood transfusions before ...

Hepatitis C remains major problem for HIV patients despite antiretroviral therapy

March 17, 2014
A new study led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has found that the risk of hepatitis C-associated serious liver disease persists in HIV patients otherwise benefitting from ...

Follow-up lacking for babies after hepatitis B vaccination: CDC

September 27, 2012
(HealthDay)—Many U.S. babies born to mothers infected with hepatitis B do not receive recommended follow-up testing after vaccination, a new study finds.

Baby boomers need hepatitis C test, CDC study confirms

August 15, 2013
(HealthDay)—Baby boomers—the generation known for sex, drugs and rock and roll—are the most likely Americans to develop hepatitis C, and too many of them aren't tested until it's too late to prevent liver damage, U.S. ...

Recommended for you

New study offers insights on genetic indicators of COPD risk

January 16, 2018
Researchers have discovered that genetic variations in the anatomy of the lungs could serve as indicators to help identify people who have low, but stable, lung function early in life, and those who are particularly at risk ...

Previous influenza virus exposures enhance susceptibility in another influenza pandemic

January 16, 2018
While past exposure to influenza A viruses often builds immunity to similar, and sometimes different, strains of the virus, Canadian researchers are calling for more attention to exceptions to that rule.

Don't hold your nose and close your mouth when you sneeze, doctors warn

January 15, 2018
Pinching your nose while clamping your mouth shut to contain a forceful sneeze isn't a good idea, warn doctors in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

New antifungal provides hope in fight against superbugs

January 12, 2018
Microscopic yeast have been wreaking havoc in hospitals around the world—creeping into catheters, ventilator tubes, and IV lines—and causing deadly invasive infection. One culprit species, Candida auris, is resistant ...

Dengue takes low and slow approach to replication

January 11, 2018
A new study reveals how dengue virus manages to reproduce itself in an infected person without triggering the body's normal defenses. Duke researchers report that dengue pulls off this hoax by co-opting a specialized structure ...

Different strains of same bacteria trigger widely varying immune responses

January 11, 2018
Genetic differences between different strains of the same pathogenic bacterial species appear to result in widely varying immune system responses, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.