• epidemiology;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • Middle East;
  • treatment;
  • vaccination

Summary.  Experts from seven countries convened as a Specialist Panel for the Middle East to share information on practical issues relating to the epidemiology, diagnosis and management of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection. The Middle East is regarded as a region of high-to-intermediate epidemicity; however, infant vaccination programmes have successfully lowered the prevalence of hepatitis B infection in most countries to that of low-to-intermediate endemicity. Vaccine issues still to be addressed included improving coverage in some rural/poor communities, instituting hepatitis B vaccine at birth and providing vaccines for high-risk population groups. Hepatitis B infection in the Middle East primarily occurs as a result of perinatal infection, horizontal transmission between family members and transmission from injections. Blood transfusion services have broadly efficient screening programmes, but immunocompromised and haemodialysis patients are at risk. The cost of screening, monitoring and treating CHB influences practice in a number of Middle East countries, and there is a need for information on the most cost-effective options.