Hepatitis B e antigen, DNA polymerase activity, and infection of household contacts with hepatitis B virus

Gastroenterology. 1979 Jun;76(6):1319-25.


To determine if the presence of hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) and elevated DNA polymerase activity in the serum of chronic HBeAg carriers indicate increased contagiousness in a household setting, the household contacts of 74 carriers were prospectively evaluated for serologic evidence of hepatitis B infection. Thirty of the HBsAg carriers had HBeAg and 44 had anti-HBe. Twenty-eight HBeAg-positive carriers regularly demonstrated elevated DNA polymerase when serially drawn serum samples were analyzed. None of the anti-HBE-positive carriers demonstrated elevation of DNA polymerase activity. Both household contacts of HBeAg-positive and anti-HBe-positive carriers demonstrated serologic evidence of hepatitis B infection (HBsAg, anti-HBs, and anti-HBc). However, infection was significantly more frequent among spouses and sexual partners of carriers who had either HBeAg (P less than 0.001) or elevated DNA polymerase activity (P less than 0.001). Thus, the data indicate that a particular subpopulation of spouses and sexual partners of hepatitis B carriers are at significantly greater risk for acquiring infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis
  • Carrier State
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / blood*
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B / enzymology
  • Hepatitis B / immunology
  • Hepatitis B / transmission*
  • Hepatitis B Antigens / analysis*
  • Hepatitis B Core Antigens / analysis
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Hepatitis B Antigens
  • Hepatitis B Core Antigens
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase