This report concerns hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections observed in 155 infants from Senegal. studied with a view to determining the factors involved in development of the chronic carrier state. A chronic carrier state was observed in 50.3% of the infants.
This study confirms that the risk of chronic carriage is linked to age. This risk declines very rapidly with age, falling from 82% in infants under 6 months old, to 15% in children between the ages of 2 and 3 years. Spontaneous elimination of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is uncommon in HBsAg carriers during childhood.
The difference observed in chronic carriage between males and females is due to a difference in susceptibility of the two sexes to the development of the chronic carrier state: HBV infections (before 2 years of age) lead to a chronic carriage in 77% of males as against 50% of females.
These conclusions are important in view of the immunisation programs being carried out against hepatitis B virus in endemic areas. For a maximum efficacy, vaccination must be carried out at birth, or shortly afterwards.