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Chronic hepatitis B infection (CHB) is a significant problem worldwide with around 300 million people infected. Ambitious goals have been set towards its elimination as a public health threat by 2030. However, accurate seroprevalence estimates in many countries are lacking or fail to provide representative population estimates, particularly in the WHO African Region (AFRO). This means the full extent of HBV infection is not well described, leading to a lack of investment in diagnostics, treatment and disease prevention. Clinical trials in the WHO AFRO region have been increasing over time and many test for infectious diseases including hepatitis B virus (HBV) to determine baseline eligibility for participants, however these screening data are not reported. Here we review data from six clinical trials completed at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme between 2016 and 2023 that screened for HBV using hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) as part of the trial exclusion criteria. 1727 people had HBsAg results available, of which 60 tested positive. We generated a crude period HBV prevalence estimate of 3.5% (95% CI 2.6-4.5%), and after standardisation for sex and age to account for the population structure of the Kilifi Health Demographics Surveillance System (KHDSS), the prevalence estimate increased to 5.0% (95% CI 3.4-6.6%). The underrepresentation of women in these trials was striking with 1263/1641 (77%) of participants being male. Alanine aminotransferase (ALT) was significantly higher in the HBsAg positive group but was not outside the normal range. We argue that routine collation and publishing of data from clinical trials could increase precision and geographical representation of global HBV prevalence estimates, enabling evidence-based provision of clinical care pathways and public health interventions to support progress towards global elimination targets. We do acknowledge when using clinical trials data for seroprevalence estimates, that local population structure data is necessary to allow standardisation of results, and the point of care tests used here are limited in sensitivity and specificity.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of virus eradication

Publication Date





Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3AZ, UK.