Hepatitis B infection and aflatoxin biomarker levels in Gambian children


correspondence C. P. Wild, Molecular Epidemiology Unit, 3rd Floor, Algernon Firth Building, School of Medicine, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT. E-mail: c.p.wild@leeds.ac.uk


Summary objectives  To examine the relationship between hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and biomarkers of aflatoxin exposure in West African children.

methods  Sera from 444 children aged 3–4 years who were selected to be representative of their communities were analysed for aflatoxin-albumin (AF-alb) adducts and markers of hepatitis B infection.

results  There was large interindividual variation in adduct levels (range: 2.2 to 459 pg AF-lysine eq./mg albumin). Adduct level was strongly correlated with season, with an approximately twofold higher mean level in the dry season than the wet. Geometric mean adduct levels in uninfected children, chronic carriers and acutely infected children were 31.6 (= 404), 44.9 (= 34) and 96.9 (= 6) pg/mg, respectively. The relationship of AF-alb level to ethnicity, month of sampling and HBV status was examined in a multiple regression model. Month of obtaining the blood sample (= 0.0001) and HBV status (= 0.0023) each made a highly significant contribution to the model; the high AF-alb levels were particularly associated with acute infection. Elevated serum transaminase levels were significantly (< 0.002) associated with HBV status, with acutely infected children having the highest levels. Ethnicity was not significantly associated with AF-alb adduct levels in the model (= 0.09).

conclusions  HBV infection and month of sampling both significantly influence AF-alb adduct levels. The effect of seasonality on adducts was also observed in a previous study of 347 Gambian adults, although there was no correlation between adduct level and HBV status in that population. This difference between children and adults may reflect a more severe effect of HBV infection, particularly acute infection, in childhood on hepatic AF metabolism.