South African Medical Journal

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The Prevalence of Hepatitis B (Australia) Antigen in Southern Africa

I Bersohn, GM Macnab, J Pyzikowska, MC Kew


The prevalence of hepatitis B (Australia) antigen (HBAg) in 38 941 apparently healthy persons of various ethnic groups living in the Transvaal was determined by countercurrent immuno-electrophoresis or by complement fixation. The prevalence was 0,09 - 0,6% in healthy Whites, 0,9% in Coloured donors, 2,0% in urban Negroes and 7"10 in rural male Blacks. The positivity rate in 444 healthy Black subjects and in 423 Sana (Bushmen) inhabiting areas in the northern and north-western regions of Southern Africa ranged from 2,7 to 15,8%. An assessment of the frequency of HBAg in various tribal groups of either Sana (Bushmen) or rural Blacks  indicated that geographical environment might be one of the factors influencing antigenaemia in healthy persons. The prevalence was highest in persons originating from the west coast regions of Southern Africa, in adjoining territories proceeding from the central plateau, and those countries north of this area (9,1 - 13,6"10)' An intermediate prevalence of 6 - 7% was noted in some regions abutting on the east coast strip, and a lower prevalence was recorded for inland regions, including Lesotho, the eastern Orange Free State, Natal Midlands and Zululand (4 - 4,7%), while the lowest frequency was found in northern Natal and the central Transvaal areas (2 - 3%). A small group of Sana in the north-eastern corner of South West Africa who had an incidence of 2,7% was the only one which did not fit in with the general geographical distribution of HBAg observed.

S. Afr. Med. J., 48, 941 (1974)

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