Background: Viral hepatitis is a serious health burden worldwide. To date, few reports have addressed the prevalence of hepatitis A, B, C, and E in China. Therefore, the general epidemiological parameters of viral hepatitis remain unknown.
Principal findings: In this cross-sectional study, we performed a serological prevalence analysis of viral hepatitis A, B, C, and E in 8,762 randomly selected Chinese subjects, which represented six areas of China. The overall prevalence of anti-Hepatitis C virus antibody (anti-HCV) was 0.58%, which was much lower than was estimated by WHO. The prevalences of Hepatitis B virus surface antigen (HBsAg), anti-Hepatitis B virus surface protein antibody (HBsAb), and anti-Hepatitis B virus core protein antibody (HBcAb) were 5.84%, 41.31%, and 35.92%, respectively, whereas in the group of subjects less than 5 years old, these prevalences were 1.16%, 46.77%, and 8.69% respectively, which suggests that the Hepatitis B virus (HBV)-carrier population is decreasing, and the nationwide HBV vaccine program has contributed to the lowered HBV prevalence in the younger generation in China. Meanwhile, a large deficit remains in coverage provided by the national HBV immune program. In addition, our data suggested the possibility that HBsAb may not last long enough to protect people from HBV infection throughout life. The overall prevalence of anti-Hepatitis A virus antibody (anti-HAV) and anti-Hepatitis E virus antibody (anti-HEV) were as high as 72.87% and 17.66%, respectively. The indices increased with age, which suggests that a large proportion of Chinese adults are protected by latent infection. Furthermore, the pattern of HEV infection was significantly different among ethnic groups in China.
Conclusions: Our study provided much important information concerning hepatitis A, B, C, and E prevalence in China and will contribute to worldwide oversight of viral hepatitis.