Hepatitis B virus seroprevalence among Malawian medical students: A cross-sectional study
Background: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) predominantly spreads through contact with infected blood or other body fluids and causes liver disease. HBV vaccination for students at the College of Medicine, University of Malawi, is done without screening for the virus. It is important to assess the prevalence of HBV antigens among foundation-year students in order to consolidate evidence in support of HBV screening before vaccination. The aim of this study was to determine the seroprevalence of HBV antigens among 2013-2014 foundation-year students at the University of Malawi College of Medicine.
Methods: A prospective cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted among 2013-2014 foundation year students at the Malawi College of Medicine. Out of the 234 foundation-year students, written consent was obtained from 89 students. Venous blood samples were collected and tested for HBV surface antigen using SD Bioline immunochromatographic rapid assays.
Results: Out of the 62 (69.7%) male students, none tested HBV-positive, and out of 27 (30.3%) female students, none were seropositive. This suggested the absence of HBsAg among students or presence of HBsAg levels below detectable limits.
Conclusions: This study showed levels of HBsAg below detectable limits among healthy young adults in Malawi. HBV screening for medical students should further be assessed to ensure adequate protection before they are assigned clinical duties. These findings provide enough grounds to agitate for further surveys to support the establishment of a universal HBV immunisation programme in Malawi.