A recent study entitled “ Seroprevalence of hepatitis B and C viruses and risk factors in HIV infected children at the felgehiwot referral hospital, Ethiopia” reports that HIV positive children are commonly affected with HBV and HCV co-infections in Ethiopia. The increased understanding of HIV and Hwepatitis co-infection in African countries such as Ethiopia could lead to improved diagnostic and treatment practices. The study was published in the journal BMC Research.
Prevalence of co-infections in HIV positive populations, as with hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV), is a health concern being increasingly recognized by world health authorities. While in Ethiopia the prevalence of HBV and HCV in HIV-positive adults was documented, no record exists for the prevalence of these co-infections in HIV-positive children in the country. With WHO recommendations advising screening for both HBV and HCV before initiating antiretroviral therapy (ART), the authors in this study determined HBV and HCV prevalence in HIV infected children. In Ethiopia, it is estimated that 154,084 children are HIV-positive and 16,000 of them were reported to have been treated with ART last year. The study was conducted at the Felege hiwot referral hospital and enrolled 253 HIV infected children (with boys accounting for 52.5% and girls 47.5%).
The authors found a seroprevalence of 2.0% for HBV and 5.5%, for HCV in HIV infected children (19). The prevalence of HCV was higher in children living in urban areas when compared to those in rural areas, with 7.7% prevalence against 1.2%, respectively.
HBV and HCV infections are a risk factor to develop liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, and in the HIV positive population these infections are a major cause for HIV patients’ morbidity and mortality. When the authors evaluated liver function by measuring alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels, they found HBV and HCV co-infection associated with high ALT levels.
In light of their results, the authors reinforce the notion that as in adults, HBV and HCV screening have to be implemented for children infected with HIV.