Low prevalence of hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus serum markers in a cohort of pregnant women from Southern Italy

Dig Liver Dis. 2017 Dec;49(12):1368-1372. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2017.07.012. Epub 2017 Aug 1.


Background: Mother-to-child transmission is still considered a major factor in the spread of hepatitis viruses. Nevertheless, epidemiological data on hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) in reproductive-age women are limited even in areas like the South of Italy where both viruses had been widespread.

Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of HBV and HCV serum markers in a large cohort of pregnant women from Southern Italy.

Methods: Data concerning 7558 pregnant women consecutively admitted to an Obstetric Division of a Sicilian University Hospital over a six-year period (January 2010-December 2015) were retrospectively collected from clinical notes.

Results: Positivity for both HBV s-antigen (HBsAg) and antibodies to HCV (anti- HCV) was very low (0.5% and 0.2%, respectively). HBsAg prevalence was significantly higher in non-Italian than in Italian women (p<0.001). On the contrary, all the anti-HCV positive cases were of Italian origin. Age was not significantly different between positive and negative women.

Conclusion: These results confirm the dramatic decline of HBV and HCV prevalence that recently occurred in Southern Italy, and highlight the importance and cost-effectiveness of systematic HBV and HCV screening in childbearing age women in order to properly apply the available preventive measures and definitively eliminate the risk of vertical transmission for both viruses.

Keywords: Hepatitis B virus; Hepatitis C virus; Pregnancy; Vertical transmission.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Child
  • Female
  • Hepacivirus
  • Hepatitis B / blood
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / blood*
  • Hepatitis B virus
  • Hepatitis C / blood
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / blood*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies