Experience with Hepatitis B viral load testing in Nigeria
Background: Quantification of the viral burden is an important laboratory tool in the management of hepatitis B virus (HBV)-infected patients. However, widespread use of assays is still hampered by the high cost. Treatment reduces viral load to undetectable levels. HBV infected patients tend to have high HBV DNA levels, and severe liver disease.
Objectives: This study was carried out to determine the pattern of HBV viral load levels of patients assessing management in Nigeria.
Method: Variables included sociodemographics like age, sex, religion, income, educational background and residence. The COBAS Amplicor automated Analyzer (PCR based) was used to assay the virus quantitatively.
Results: 594 patients were tested from 2008 to 2009. Statistical analysis was done using Epi info version 2002 and test of significance by Kruskal-Wallis. Mean age of the patients was 36.8 (ranging from 9 to 69) years. HBV viral titre ranged between 4,145 and 68,011,800 DNA copies/ml.
Conclusion: There was a high occurrence of viral titre in the population studied. High viral load is a risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma. A policy earmarked to combat this virus in Nigeria is hereby solicited.
Key words: HBV infection, HBV DNA, Nigeria