Hepatitis B immunoglobulin during pregnancy for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B virus

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Feb 11;2(2):CD008545. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008545.pub2.


Background: Hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver. It is mainly transmitted between people through contact with infected blood, frequently from mother to baby in-utero. Hepatitis B poses significant risk to the fetus and up to 85% of infants infected by their mothers at birth develop chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) is a purified solution of human immunoglobulin that could be administered to the mother, newborn, or both. HBIG offers protection against HBV infection when administered to pregnant women who test positive for hepatitis B envelope antigen (HBeAg) or hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), or both. When HBIG is administered to pregnant women, the antibodies passively diffuse across the placenta to the child. This materno-fetal diffusion is maximal during the third trimester of pregnancy. Up to 1% to 9% infants born to HBV-carrying mothers still have HBV infection despite the newborn receiving HBIG plus active HBV vaccine in the immediate neonatal period. This suggests that additional intervention such as HBIG administration to the mother during the antenatal period could be beneficial to reduce the transmission rate in utero.

Objectives: To determine the benefits and harms of hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) administration to pregnant women during their third trimester of pregnancy for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B virus infection.

Search methods: We searched the The Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group Controlled Trials Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE Ovid, Embase Ovid, Science Citation Index Expanded (Web of Science), SCOPUS, African Journals OnLine, and INDEX MEDICUS up to June 2016. We searched ClinicalTrials.gov and portal of the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) in December 2016.

Selection criteria: We included randomised clinical trials comparing HBIG versus placebo or no intervention in pregnant women with HBV.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors extracted data independently. We analysed dichotomous outcome data using risk ratio (RR) and continuous outcome data using mean difference (MD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). For meta-analyses, we used a fixed-effect model and a random-effects model, along with an assessment of heterogeneity. If there were statistically significant discrepancies in the results, we reported the more conservative point estimate. If the two estimates were equal, we used the estimate with the widest CI as our main result. We assessed bias control using the Cochrane Hepato-Biliary Group suggested bias risk domains and risk of random errors using Trial Sequential Analysis (TSA). We assessed the quality of the evidence using GRADE.

Main results: All 36 included trials originated from China and were at overall high risk of bias. The trials included 6044 pregnant women who were HBsAg, HBeAg, or hepatitis B virus DNA (HBV-DNA) positive. Only seven trials reported inclusion of HBeAg-positive mothers. All 36 trials compared HBIG versus no intervention. None of the trials used placebo.Most of the trials assessed HBIG 100 IU (two trials) and HBIG 200 IU (31 trials). The timing of administration of HBIG varied; 30 trials administered three doses of HBIG 200 IU at 28, 32, and 36 weeks of pregnancy. None of the trials reported all-cause mortality or other serious adverse events in the mothers or babies. Serological signs of hepatitis B infection of the newborns were reported as HBsAg, HBeAg, and HBV-DNA positive results at end of follow-up. Twenty-nine trials reported HBsAg status in newborns (median 1.2 months of follow-up after birth; range 0 to 12 months); seven trials reported HBeAg status (median 1.1 months of follow-up after birth; range 0 to 12 months); and 16 trials reported HBV-DNA status (median 1.2 months of follow-up; range 0 to 12 months). HBIG reduced mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HBsAg when compared with no intervention (179/2769 (6%) with HBIG versus 537/2541 (21%) with no intervention; RR 0.30, TSA-adjusted CI 0.20 to 0.52; I2 = 36%; 29 trials; 5310 participants; very low quality evidence). HBV-DNA reduced MTCT of HBsAg (104/1112 (9%) with HBV-DNA versus 382/1018 (38%) with no intervention; RR 0.25, TSA-adjusted CI 0.22 to 0.27; I2 = 84%; 16 trials; 2130 participants; low quality evidence). TSA supported both results. Meta-analysis showed that maternal HBIG did not decrease HBeAg in newborns compared with no intervention (184/889 (21%) with HBIG versus 232/875 (27%) with no intervention; RR 0.68, TSA-adjusted CI 0.04 to 6.37; I2 = 90%; 7 trials; 1764 participants; very low quality evidence). TSA could neither support nor refute this observation as data were too sparse. None of the trials reported adverse events of the immunoglobulins on the newborns, presence of local and systemic adverse events on the mothers, or cost-effectiveness of treatment.

Authors' conclusions: Due to very low to low quality evidence found in this review, we are uncertain of the effect of benefit of antenatal HBIG administration to the HBV-infected mothers on newborn outcomes, such as HBsAg, HBV-DNA, and HBeAg compared with no intervention. The results of the effects of HBIG on HBsAg and HBeAg are surrogate outcomes (raising risk of indirectness), and we need to be critical while interpreting the findings. We found no data on newborn mortality or maternal mortality or both, or other serious adverse events. Well-designed randomised clinical trials are needed to determine the benefits and harms of HBIG versus placebo in prevention of MTCT of HBV.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B / blood
  • Hepatitis B / transmission*
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis B virus* / genetics
  • Hepatitis B virus* / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive / methods*
  • Immunoglobulins / administration & dosage*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Vertical / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • DNA, Viral
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens
  • Immunoglobulins
  • hepatitis B hyperimmune globulin