Hepatitis B virus co-infection: a challenge to successful ART in sub-Saharan Africa?

Prevalence of HIV and hepatitis B virus co-infection in sub-Saharan Africa and the potential impact and program feasibility of hepatitis B surface antigen screening in resource-limited settings.

Stabinski L, OʼConnor S, Barnhart M, Kahn RJ, Hamm TE. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Apr 15;68 Suppl 3:S274-85. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000496.

Background: Screening people living with HIV for hepatitis B virus (HBV) co-infection is recommended in resource-rich settings to optimize HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) and mitigate HBV-related liver disease. This review examines the need, feasibility, and impact of screening for HBV in resource-limited settings (RLS).

Methods: We searched 6 databases to identify peer-reviewed publications between 2007 and 2013 addressing (1) HIV/HBV co-infection frequency in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA); (2) performance of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) rapid strip assays (RSAs) in RLS; (3) impact of HBV co-infection on morbidity, mortality, or liver disease progression; and/or (4) impact of HBV-suppressive antiretroviral medications as part of ART on at least one of 5 outcomes (mortality, morbidity, HIV transmission, retention in HIV care, or quality of life). We rated the quality of individual articles and summarized the body of evidence and expected impact of each intervention per outcome addressed.

Results: Of 3940 identified studies, 85 were included in the review: 55 addressed HIV/HBV co-infection frequency; 6 described HBsAg RSA performance; and 24 addressed the impact of HIV/HBV co-infection and ART. HIV/HBV frequency in sub-Saharan Africa varied from 0% to >28.4%. RSA performance in RLS showed good, although variable, sensitivity and specificity. Quality of studies ranged from strong to weak. Overall quality of evidence for the impact of HIV/HBV co-infection and ART on morbidity and mortality was fair and good to fair, respectively.

Conclusions: Combined, the body of evidence reviewed suggests that HBsAg screening among people living with HIV could have substantial impact on preventing morbidity and mortality among HIV/HBV co-infected individuals in RLS.

Abstract access  [1]

Editor’s notes: The routes of transmission for hepatitis B virus (HBV) and HIV are the same, and they frequently co-infect individuals in high HIV prevalence settings. HIV has also been shown to accelerate the progression of HBV. This has important implications for ART programmes, given also the potential for hepatotoxicity of ART. The response of both infections to certain antivirals gives an opportunity to treat both infections simultaneously, but also the potential to engender resistant strains of virus if treatment is optimised for one and not the other.

This paper reviews the evidence that might support inclusion of HBV screening as part of HIV care programmes. No clinical trials have been done in this area, so the review is based on observational studies. The data are incomplete and geographically patchy, largely from Nigeria and South Africa. However, this does not prevent the authors from concluding that the co-infection risk is sufficiently high and the consequences of lack of treatment sufficiently severe to consider allocation of scarce resources to identify and manage HBV co-infection in HIV programmes. Appropriate validated screening tools - rapid tests for hepatitis B surface antigen - are available. The potential benefit warrants consideration of this issue in sub-Saharan Africa, and inclusion of HBV surveillance alongside HIV to resolve the paucity of data in most countries. This should be rapidly followed by further consideration of the cost- and risk-benefit of introduction of an HBV screening and treatment programme.

Interested readers might also refer to a review by Matthews et al [2]. (J Clin Virol 2014;6:20-33) which considers similar questions and also discusses hepatitis C co-infection.

Avoid TB deaths [4]
Africa [8]
Benin [9], Botswana [10], Burkina Faso [11], Cameroon [12], Ethiopia [13], Gambia [14], Ghana [15], Kenya [16], Lesotho [17], Malawi [18], Nigeria [19], Rwanda [20], Senegal [21], South Africa [22], Uganda [23], United Republic of Tanzania [24], Zambia [25]
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