Occult hepatitis B virus infection in a Kenyan cohort of HIV infected anti-retroviral therapy naïve adults

Adil Salyani, Aga Khan University
Jasmit Shah, Aga Khan University
Rodney Adam, Aga Khan University
George Otieno, Kijabe Hospital, Kenya
Evelyn Mbugua, Kijabe Hospital, Kenya
Reena Shah, Aga Khan University


Background Occult hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (OBI) is a phase of HBV infection characterised by the presence of HBV DNA in the absence of detectable hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). OBI is of concern in the HIV-infected due to high prevalence and risk of HBV reactivation. The prevalence and clinico-demographic characteristics of OBI in anti-retroviral therapy (ART) naïve HIV infected adults in Kenya is unknown. Methods A cross sectional study carried was out at three sites in Kenya. HIV infected ART naïve adults were enrolled and demographic data collected. Blood samples were assayed for HBsAg, HBV DNA, alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, antibodies to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) and hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc). Data on CD4 count, HIV viral load and platelet count were obtained from medical records.

Results Of 208 patients, 199 (95.7%) did not report HBV vaccination, 196 (94.2%) were HBsAg negative, 119 (57.2%) had no HBV markers, 58 (27.9%) had previous HBV infection (anti-HBc positive) and 11 (5.3%) had OBI. All 11 (100%) OBI patients were anti-HBc positive. OBI patients comprised 19.0% of HBsAg negative, anti-HBc positive patients. There was no difference in clinico-demographic characteristics between the overt HBV, OBI and HBV negative patients.

Conclusion This was the first study on OBI in ART naïve HIV infected adults in Kenya. The lower OBI prevalence compared to other sub-Saharan African countries could be attributed to lower HBV exposure. Most patients were HBV unexposed and unimmunized, outlining the need to implement guideline recommended immunization strategies.