Significance and anamnestic response in isolated hepatitis B core antibody-positive individuals 18 years after neonatal hepatitis B virus vaccination in Taiwan

Fu Hsiung Su, Chyi Huey Bai, Fang Yeh Chu, Yu Shiang Lin, Chien Tien Su, Chih Ching Yeh

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Aim: To investigate the significance of isolated hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc) and to analyze the response to hepatitis B virus (HBV) booster vaccination in young adults with isolated anti-HBc who had been fully vaccinated with HBV vaccine as infants. Materials and methods: We screened 1734 new university entrants who had been fully vaccinated against HBV in infancy for the presence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs), and anti-HBc upon university entry. Results positive for isolated anti-HBc were reconfirmed by testing for the presence of HBsAg and anti-HBc once more, and further evaluated for anti-HCV, anti-HIV, and HBV DNA status 6 months later. Students were also offered HBV booster vaccinations at that time. Geometric mean titers (GMT) of anti-HBs after one booster dose of HBV were compared between students with isolated anti-HBc and students with HBV naïve status. Results: The overall prevalence of isolated anti-HBc in our student cohort was 1.2% (21 of 1734). No evidence of occult HBV infection was observed. A " booster" anamnestic response (anti-HBs titer ≥10. mIU/mL) was noted in 95% (20 of 21) of subjects with isolated anti-HBc. After re-measurement of anti-HBc, 13 (62%) of the 21 subjects with isolated anti-HBc were reclassified as having resolved HBV infection with a loss of anti-HBs. In the remaining 8 subjects (38%), isolated anti-HBc was determined to be false positive. The HBV status of these 8 subjects was HBV naïve due to the waning-off effect of anti-HBs of the neonatal HBV vaccination. There was no significant difference in anamnestic response to a single HBV booster dose of vaccine between students with isolated anti-HBc (. n=. 13) and those with HBV naïve (. n=. 323) status (GMT 50.6 vs 47.7. mIU/mL, . P=. 0.90). Conclusion: The presence of isolated anti-HBc 18 years after HBV vaccination can be attributed to post-HBV infection with a loss of anti-HBs and to a decline in anti-HBs elicited by vaccine. A single HBV booster dose of vaccine is recommended for subjects with isolated anti-HBc who were fully vaccinated with HBV vaccine as infants. This finding needs to be replicated in further studies with larger cohorts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4034-4039
Number of pages6
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - Jun 8 2012



  • Booster
  • HBV
  • HBV serology
  • Isolated anti-HBc
  • Vaccination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • veterinary(all)
  • Molecular Medicine

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