Introduction: Hepatitis B is endemic in Lao PDR and about 9% of the adult population is chronically infected. In this study, we investigated regional, occupational, age and sex-related differences in hepatitis B epidemiology in Lao blood donors.
Methods: 5017 voluntary blood donors from 8 different provinces were tested for hepatitis B markers by ELISA. Predictors for the prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and antibodies against the core antigen (anti-HBc) were assessed by bivariate and multivariable analyses.
Results: In total, 41% of the participants were positive for anti-HBc; the HBsAg prevalence was estimated at 6.9% among all participants (9.2% among first-time donors and 3.9% among repeat donors). Among first-time donors, HBsAg positivity was associated independently with being male (p<0.001), being from the North (p<0.001) and being soldier (p<0.001). Participants were more likely to be anti-HBc positive when they were male (p<0.001), from the Northern provinces (p<0.001) and older than 20 years (p<0.01).
Conclusion: In conclusion, our study confirmed an overall high HBsAg and anti-HBc prevalence in Lao PDR, albeit with considerable regional variation. The identification of a sizeable number of HBsAg positives among repeat donors warrants a thorough investigation of current blood screening, record keeping, donor identification and counselling practises.