Hepatitis B virus is a leading cause of liver disease. It has infected nearly two billion people worldwide. A new study has found that an antiviral drug telbivudine prevents perinatal transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV).
Study author Yuming Wang from Institute for Infectious Diseases, Southwest Hospital, Chongqing, China, said, "If we are to decrease the global burden of hepatitis B, we need to start by addressing mother-to-infant transmission, which is the primary pathway of HBV infection. We found that telbivudine not only eliminated vertical transmission of HBV from pregnant women to theirs infants, but that it is also safe and well tolerated by women and infants."
Researchers studied 450 HBV-positive pregnant women with high viral load, or significant HBV in the blood, during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Out of them, 279 women received telbivudine (600 mg daily) during weeks 24 through 32 of gestation, and 171 women who were unwilling to take antiviral drugs participated as controls.
At six months after birth, none of the infants whose mothers were given telbivudine tested positive for HBV, compared to 14.7% of infants in the control group. Almost half of the mothers who received telbivudine had no HBV detectable in their system, while those not on the antiviral medication all tested positive for HBV. A significantly higher proportion of women given telbivudine had undetectable levels of HBV DNA in cord blood (99.1%) than controls (61.5%).
Wang said, "No severe adverse events or complications were observed in women or infants. The long-term influence of using telbivudine, especially when compared to the other recommended oral antiviral drug, tenofovir, remains to be explored."
The study is published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.