Prophylactic vaccination against hepatitis B: achievements, challenges and perspectives

Med Microbiol Immunol. 2015 Feb;204(1):39-55. doi: 10.1007/s00430-014-0373-y. Epub 2014 Dec 19.


Large-scale vaccination against hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection started in 1984 with first-generation vaccines made from plasma of chronic carriers containing HBV surface antigen (HBsAg). Thereafter, it was replaced in most countries by second-generation vaccines manufactured in yeast cells transformed with gene S encoding HBsAg. Both generations of vaccines have been applied for universal neonate and early childhood vaccination worldwide and have led to a 70-90 % decrease in chronic HBV carrier rates. However, 10-30% of newborns from HBsAg/HBeAg-positive mothers cannot be protected by passive/active vaccination alone and become chronic HBV carriers themselves. Asymptomatic occult HBV infections are frequent even in those who have protective levels of anti-HBs. Suboptimal protection may be due to heterologous HBsAg subtypes that are present in 99% of HBV carriers worldwide. Second-generation vaccines contain partially misfolded HBsAg and lack preS1 antigen that carries the major HBV attachment site and neutralizing epitopes. Third-generation vaccines produced in mammalian cells contain correctly folded HBsAg and neutralizing epitopes of the preS antigens, induce more rapid protection, overcome nonresponse to second-generation vaccines and, most importantly, may provide better protection for newborns of HBV-positive mothers. PreS/S vaccines expressed in mammalian cells are more expensive to manufacture, but introduction of more potent HBV vaccines should be considered in regions with a high rate of vertical transmission pending assessment of health economics and healthcare priorities. With optimal vaccines and vaccination coverage, eradication of HBV would be possible.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carrier State / epidemiology
  • Carrier State / prevention & control*
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis B / prevention & control*
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / immunology
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / immunology*
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Protein Precursors / immunology
  • Vaccination / methods*


  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis B Vaccines
  • Protein Precursors