Research Article

Hepatitis B in a hospital for the mentally subnormal in southern England.

Br Med J 1978; 2 doi: (Published 26 August 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;2:594
  1. J G Kingham,
  2. M McGuire,
  3. D H Paine,
  4. R Wright


    The prevalence of hepatitis B viral (HBV) infection was assessed in 340 patients and 268 staff in a hospital for the mentally subnormal in Wessex. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), antibody to hepatitis B core antigen, antibody to HBsAg, e antigen (eAg), and antibody to eAg were used as markers of such infection. Forty patients and 10 staff had evidence of recent or current infection, while 149 patients and 50 staff had evidence of past infection. HBV markers were more common in mongols, epileptics, patients with cerebral palsy, and those of lower mental grades and reached a peak after 5-15 years of hospitalisation. eAg was detected in 12 out of 26 patients with HBsAg but in none of the four staff with HBsAg. Abnormal liver function values were found in 24 (60%) of the patients with recent or current HBV infection but in only 30 (19%) of those without HBV markers. Among the staff the prevalence of HBV markers correlated with the duration of employment and degree of contact with patients. Of those with recent or current infection, 4 (40%) had abnormal liver function values compared with 25 (12%) of those without HBV markers. Despite the high prevalence of markers clinically overt hepatitis B was rare.