Recent Trends in Hepatitis B Virus Infection in the General Korean Population

Korean J Intern Med. 2013 Jul;28(4):413-9. doi: 10.3904/kjim.2013.28.4.413. Epub 2013 Jul 1.


Background/aims: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is the major cause of chronic liver disease in Korea, but viral prevalence has decreased because of hepatitis B vaccination programs. In this study, we investigated longitudinal changes in HBV in fection in the general Korean population.

Methods: HBV surface antigen (hepatitis B surface antigen, HBsAg) seropositivity was assessed from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (I to V). In total, 50,140 subjects were tested for serum HBsAg positivity over a period of 12 years (1998 to 2010).

Results: The prevalence of HBsAg seropositivity decreased over the study period. The rates of HBsAg carriers were 4.61% in 1998, 4.60% in 2001, 3.69% in 2005, 3.01% in 2008, and 2.98% in 2010 (p < 0.0001). The reduction in HBV infection rates was more prominent in younger age groups. Among teenagers (10 to 19 years), the percentage of HBsAg carriers decreased from 2.2% in 1998 to 0.12% in 2010 (p < 0.0001). Among those aged 10 to 39 years, the percentage of HBV infection decreased from 4.72% in 1998 to 2.29% in 2010 (p < 0.0001). However, no decreasing trend in HBsAg positivity was observed among those aged 50 or older (p > 0.05). Neither gender nor socioeconomic status were associated with the decreased prevalence of HBsAg carriers.

Conclusions: HBV infection has decreased in the Korean population since the advent of vaccination programs. However, the decrease is limited to the younger population, and viral persistence remains in the middle-aged and older population.

Keywords: Age groups; Hepatitis B surface antigens; Hepatitis B virus; Korea; Prevalence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Hepatitis B / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis B / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Republic of Korea / epidemiology
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines