Hepatitis B virus and human immunodeficiency virus co-infection in sub-Saharan Africa: a call for further investigation


R. J. Burnett, The HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis Research Laboratory, Department of Virology, PO Box 173, Medunsa 0204, South Africa.
Tel: +27 12 521 4569/4404
Fax: +27 12 521 5794
e-mail: rburnett@medunsa.ac.za/rosemary_burnett@embanet.com


Abstract: A growing body of evidence indicates that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals are more likely to be infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) than HIV-negative individuals, possibly as a result of shared risk factors. There is also evidence that HIV-positive individuals who are subsequently infected with HBV are more likely to become HBV chronic carriers, have a high HBV replication rate, and remain hepatitis Be antigen positive for a much longer period. In addition, it is evident that immunosuppression brought about by HIV infection may cause reactivation or reinfection in those previously exposed to HBV. Furthermore, HIV infection exacerbates liver disease in HBV co-infected individuals, and there is an even greater risk of liver disease when HIV and HBV co-infected patients are treated with highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). Complicating matters further, there have been several reports linking HIV infection to ‘sero-silent’ HBV infections, which presents serious problems for diagnosis, prevention, and control. In sub-Saharan Africa, where both HIV and HBV are endemic, little is known about the burden of co-infection and the interaction between these two viruses. This paper reviews studies that have investigated HIV and HBV co-infection in sub-Saharan Africa, against a backdrop of what is currently known about the interactions between these two viruses.