To prevent transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV) from health care workers (HCWs) to patients, highly viraemic HCWs are often advised to restrict performing exposure prone procedures (EPPs). To prevent loss of highly qualified medical personnel and simultaneously minimize transmission risk to patients, we offered highly viraemic HCWs antiviral therapy and evaluated the effects of this strategy. Eighteen chronic HBV-infected HCWs have been monitored every 3-6 months for a median period of 5.6 years (range 1.1-12.5 years). Antiviral therapy was offered if HBV DNA was above 105copies/mL and EPPs were performed or active liver disease was present. Median HBV DNA levels, the percentage of days with HBV DNA above 103, 104and 105copies/mL, and reduction of HBV DNA during antiviral treatment have been analysed for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive and HBeAg-negative HCWs separately. Prolonged viral suppression was achieved in both HBeAg-positive, as well as HBeAg-negative HCWs. In HBeAg-negative HCWs treatment with interferon or lamivudine maintained HBV DNA levels below 105copies/mL. For HBeAg-positive HCWs continuous treatment with tenofovir or entecavir was essential for reaching low viraemia persistently. In 2004, median HBV DNA levels in both HBeAg-negative and HBeAg-positive HCWs were below 103copies/mL and all HCWs executed their professional work full-range. For both HBeAg-positive and HBeAg-negative HCWs, antiviral treatment is effective in persistent suppression of virus levels below 105copies/mL. This observation supports antiviral therapy as a viable management option instead of work restriction, with the provision of regular expert monitoring including quantification of HBV DNA.

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Journal of Viral Hepatitis
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Buster, E., Eijck, A., de Man, R., Janssen, H., & Schalm, S. (2007). Prolonged antiviral therapy for hepatitis B virus-infected health care workers: A feasible option to prevent work restriction without jeopardizing patient safety. Journal of Viral Hepatitis, 14(5), 350–354. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2893.2006.00809.x