The CDC has expanded its testing recommendations for chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and, for the first time, has provided health professionals with guidance for effective therapy (MMWR. 2008;57[RR-08]:1-20).
Testing for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is newly recommended for the following groups:
• People with abnormal liver tests not explained by the presence of other conditions
• People undergoing chemotherapy and other forms of immunosuppressive therapy
• Injection drug users
• Men who have sex with men
• People born in Asia, Africa, and other geographic regions where prevalence of chronic HBV infection is ³2%, rather than the previously recommended >8%.
HBsAg testing continues to be recommended for pregnant women, infants of HBsAg-positive women, HIV-positive persons, household contacts and sex partners of persons infected with HBV, and persons who are the source of blood or body fluid exposures that might warrant postexposure prophylaxis.
The CDC notes that this is a good time to release monitoring and management guidelines for chronic HBV infection because most of the effective medications for this contagious and often fatal liver disease have become available only in the past five years.