Hepatitis B vaccination campaign for newborns shows promise

A hepatitis B vaccination program in Australia for Aboriginal newborns in the country's Northern Territory significantly reduced the infection rate of the deadly disease, according to researchers at the University of New South Wales.

Scientists from UNSW's Kirby Institute and the Northern Territory Department of Health recently published the study in Vaccine. The paper demonstrates an 80 percent reduction of Hepatitis B infection in young Aboriginal women since the program started in 1988, compared with young women born prior to the institution of the program, MedicalXpress reports.

The decrease dropped Hepatitis B rates from five percent to one percent in Aboriginal women living in remote communities.

The researchers said that the findings of the study demonstrate just how important immunization programs are in preventing chronic diseases like hepatitis B.

The research team said that a similar decline in the number of cases is likely to be seen in other Australian states and territories after children vaccinated from 2000 onward are old enough to be added to hepatitis B testing programs.

Hepatitis B is an infection that is potentially life-threatening because of its ability to induce liver cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer, MedicalXpress reports.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis B spreads via bodily fluid such as semen or blood. The spread of the disease can occur through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing drug-injection equipment. The disease can also be passed from an infected mother to her child at birth.