Hepatitis in Malaysia: Past, Present, and Future

Euroasian J Hepatogastroenterol. 2016 Jan-Jun;6(1):52-55. doi: 10.5005/jp-journals-10018-1167. Epub 2016 Jul 9.


Malaysia is multiethnic, with a population of 31,127,247 comprising a mixture of Malays (50.1%), Chinese (22.6%), Indians (6.7%), Aborigines (11.8%), others (0.7%), and noncitizens (8.2%). Like other countries in the region, viral hepatitis is an important public health problem in Malaysia. The 3 most common causes for hepatitis in Malaysia are hepatitis A, B, and C. Hepatitis A has been a reportable disease in Malaysia since 1988. Due to the introduction of government control programs, the national incidence rate has dropped steadily. It is now estimated that 50% of Malaysians less than 30 years of age do not have antibodies to hepatitis A and are therefore susceptible to the disease, which can be prevented by reinforcing the hygiene status of the general population. Malaysia is a country of medium seroprevalence for the hepatitis B virus (HBV) surface antigen (HBsAg) in the general population (1.5-9.8%). The major route of transmission is from infected mother to fetus. There are an estimated 1 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B in Malaysia. Approximately 75% of all viral hepatitis cases are due to hepatitis B infection, with a male-to-female ratio of 2:1. Chronic hepatitis B (CHB) accounts for more than 80% of the hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cases seen in Malaysia and HCC is the 3rd most common malignant neoplasm and among the 10 leading causes of death. Most common genotypes are B and C. Incidence rates among Chinese, Malays, and Indians are 36, 26, and 15% respectively. The hepatitis B vaccination program for children was introduced in 1989, which successfully managed to reduce the seroprevalence of infection among Malaysians to 0.01% (graph 4, 2014). But the disease burden will still remain high for some time as the infected people are getting older and living longer. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a growing problem in Malaysia. An estimated 453,700 people were living with HCV infection in Malaysia in 2009 (2.5% of the population aged 15-64 years), of whom 59% acquired their infection through injection and the most common genotypes found are genotype 3 and 1. The HCV-related disease burden is already high and is forecast to rise steeply over the coming decades under current levels of antiviral treatment. Increased governmental resources to improve HCV screening and treatment rates and to reduce transmission are essential to address the high projected HCV disease burden in Malaysia.

How to cite this article: Raihan R. Hepatitis in Malaysia: Past, Present, and Future. Euroasian J Hepato-Gastroenterol 2016;6(1):52-55.

Keywords: Future; Hepatitis; Malaysia; Past; Present..

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  • Review