1 Liver Unit Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology Department of Medicine University of Calgary Calgary Canada.
2 Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases Cumming School of Medicine University of Calgary Calgary Canada
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is an important human pathogen. Unvaccinated infants infected through mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) are at >95% risk of developing serum hepatitis B surface antigen-positive chronic hepatitis B(CHB). Despite complete passive-active HBV immunoprophylaxis, approximately 10% of infants born to mothers who are highly viremic develop CHB, and thus maternal treatment with nucleos(t)ide analogs (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine, or telbivudine) is recommended in the third trimester of pregnancy to reduce MTCT risk. Viral rebound usually occurs after stopping treatment and, in the context of maternal immunologic reconstitution postpartum, can also precipitate host immune-mediated hepatic (biochemical) flares. In this article, we review the epidemiology of HBV MTCT, discuss management and potential mechanisms of HBV vertical transmission, and highlight recent studies on virologic and immunologic aspects of hepatitis B in pregnancy and postpartum.