Vaccines against hepatitis B are a global success story, with a whole generation of young people now protected from this leading cause of liver cancer
Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Safe and highly effective vaccines to prevent hepatitis B infection are available. Hepatitis B infections can become long-term chronic infections that can lead to complications like liver disease or liver cancer. For those who have not been vaccinated, early detection of the infection and clinical care is important to reduce severity of the infection and death.
Vaccines to prevent hepatitis B infection have been available for decades and are on the WHO List of Essential Medicines. Currently, 95 percent of all countries include hepatitis B vaccination in their infant immunization programs, and 84 percent of newborns receive the full three-dose vaccine series. Thanks to this increasingly widespread vaccination, hepatitis B infection is one of the few Sustainable Development Goals health targets that is on track.
Blood tests can detect signs of hepatitis B and determine whether the infection is acute or chronic. Previously, hepatitis B was detected using a singlet test to identify a surface antigen (HBsAg). However, triple panel tests are becoming more common and can detect a surface antigen (HBsAg), antibodies to the hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs), and total antibody to the hepatitis B core antigen (total anti-HBc).
There are several point of care (POC) tests that detect surface antigens, and more are under development for both single and triple testing. POC and near POC tests can be implemented in community and clinical settings where treatment and vaccination can also be offered.