Journal of Medical Laboratory Science

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Alpha-Fetoprotein in Asymptomatic Hepatitis B Virus Infected Subjects

MA Emokpae, AI Dutse, HS Isah


The prevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is high in sub-Saharan Africa. A great number of the infected individuals are asymptomatic and are commonly diagnosed by chance. Alpha-fetoprotein and liver function
tests were evaluated in asymptomatic hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive subjects to ascertain those that are at immediate risk of hepatocellular disease. Fifty subjects (37 males and 13 females), were recruited from among blood donors and general Outpatient clinics of Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital. They were seropositive for HBsAg but asymptomatic on routine medical check. HBsAg, alpha fetoprotein and liver enzymes activities were analyzed using strip and latex agglutination technique, ELECSYS 1010 and Express Plus auto analyzers respectively. There were no statistically significant changes in the level of alpha fetoprotein and liver function tests in HBsAg positive but asymptomatic
subjects when compared with control subjects, except in one subject who had serum alpha fetoprotein, asparate amino transferase and alanine amino transferase activities twice the value for the control subjects. But alkaline phosphate, bilirubin, total protein and albumin remained unchanged. Only one subject could be regarded to be at risk of developing
liver disease at the time the study was carried out. Since hepatocellular pathology takes years to develop, it is therefore suggested that a twice yearly programme of alpha-fetoprotein testing be established in both urban and rural areas. This will help to reduce mortality and morbidity often associated with hepatic diseases due to HBV infection.
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