Persistence of Antibody to Hepatitis B and Protection From Disease Among Alaska Natives Immunized at Birth

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Abstract

Background:

Alaska Native (AN) children were at high risk of acquiring hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection before vaccination began in 1983. We evaluated the long-term protection from hepatitis B (HB) vaccination among AN children immunized when infants.

Methods:

During 1984–1995, we recruited a convenience sample of AN children who had received a three dose series of HB vaccine starting at birth and had serum antibody to hepatitis B (anti-HBs) concentrations of ≥10 mIU/mL at 7–26 months of age. We evaluated anti-HBs concentrations and the presence of anti-HBc in participants’ sera every other year up to age 16 years. Anti-HB core antigen (anti-HBc)-positive specimens were tested for hepatitis B surface antigen and for HBV DNA.

Results:

We followed 334 children for 3151 person-years (median, 10 years per child) with 1610 specimens collected. Anti-HBs concentrations dropped rapidly among all participants. Among children 2, 5 and 10 years of age, 37 of 79 (47%), 33 of 176 (19%) and 8 of 95 (8%), respectively, had anti-HBs concentrations of ≥10 mIU/mL. Receipt of recombinant vaccine was significantly associated with a more rapid antibody decline (P < 0.001). Six (1.8%) children acquired anti-HBc, 3 of whom had definite breakthrough infections (at least 2 consecutive anti-HBc-positive specimens or at least 1 anti-HBc-positive specimen and HBV DNA detection by PCR). None of these children had detectable hepatitis B surface antigen, and none had symptoms of hepatitis.

Conclusions:

Anti-HBs concentrations declined over time among AN infants successfully immunized with HB vaccine starting at birth. Transient anti-HBc appeared in a small percentage of children; however, none developed clinical signs of hepatitis or chronic HBV infection.

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