Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Prevalence of hepatitis B virus infection among black children in Soweto.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986; 292 doi: (Published 31 May 1986) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986;292:1440
  1. A M Dibisceglie,
  2. M C Kew,
  3. G M Dusheiko,
  4. E L Berger,
  5. E Song,
  6. A C Paterson,
  7. H J Hodkinson


    Roughly 15% of black children in rural areas of southern Africa are carriers of the hepatitis B virus. The purpose of the present study was to determine the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B virus infection among urban black children born and growing up in Soweto. A total of 2364 children were studied, ranging in age from 3 to 19 years, and of these, 1319 (56%) were girls. The children were drawn from the highest and the lowest socioeconomic classes. Serum samples were tested for all hepatitis B virus markers as well as IgG antibody against hepatitis A virus. HBsAg was detected in 23 (0.97%) of the children, anti-HBc and anti-HBs together in 155 (6.6%), anti-HBc alone in 17 (0.7%), and anti-HBs alone in 72 (3%). Of the 2364 children, 2097 (88.5%) were negative for all hepatitis B virus markers. IgG antibody to hepatitis A virus was present in 175 (97%) of a sample of 179 children. There was no difference in prevalence of hepatitis B virus markers between children from the upper and lower socioeconomic classes. HBsAg was more common in boys (16 out of 1043 (1.5%) than girls (seven out of 1321 (0.57%), and the prevalence of all hepatitis B virus markers increased with age. The youngest carrier of hepatitis B virus was 7 years old. The remarkable difference in the hepatitis B virus carrier rate between urban and rural black children offers a unique opportunity to investigate the favourable influences operating in an urban environment to limit the prevalence of hepatitis B virus infection.