Abstract

In October 1989 routine screening for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) in all regnant women was introduced in the Netherlands. In order to prevent hepatitis B infection in their offspring all infants of HBsAg-positive mothers receive passive active immunization. During 1991 about 75% of the estimated total number of pregnant women was screened for HBsAg in the regional laboratories appointed by the National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection. It is currently unknown whether the remaining 25% of the pregnant women were screened and if so, where. The organisation of the screening will be investigated in detail in the 4th trimester of 1992. The overall prevalence of HBsAg-positivity was 0.47% in 1991, with a range of 0.2% in rural areas to 0.9% in the city of Amsterdam. The overall percentage of HBsAg-positive women is similar to the prevalence found in 1990, but much lower than the originally expected percentage of 0.8%. The question therefore is whether the women not reached by the programme belong to the high risk groups for hepatitis B. A number of regional laboratories did not provide details concerning their analytical performance. In some laboratories the current procedures should be reconsidered.

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