Epidemiology of hepatitis B, C and D in Malawi: systematic review

Alexander J Stockdale, Collins Mitambo, Dean Everett, Anna Maria Geretti, Melita A Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Viral hepatitis is an important public health issue in sub-Saharan Africa. Due to rising mortality from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma and limited implementation of screening and treatment programmes, it has been characterised as a neglected tropical disease. Synthesis of the existing evidence on the epidemiology of viral hepatitis B, C and D in Malawi is required to inform policy and identify research gaps.

METHODS: We searched Pubmed, EMBASE and Scopus for studies reporting the epidemiology of viral hepatitis B, C and D in Malawi from 1990 to 2018. Articles reporting prevalence estimates were included provided they described details of participant selection, inclusion criteria and laboratory methods (detection of HBsAg, anti-HCV or anti-HDV antibody, HCV antigen or HCV RNA or HDV RNA). We assessed study quality using a prevalence assessment tool. Where appropriate, a pooled prevalence was calculated using a DerSimonian Laird random effects model.

RESULTS: Searches identified 199 studies, 95 full text articles were reviewed and 19 articles were included. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) seroprevalence was assessed in 14 general population cohorts. The pooled prevalence among adults was 8.1% (95% CI 6.1, 10.3). In 3 studies where HBsAg was stratified by HIV status, no effect of HIV on HBsAg prevalence was observed (OR 1.2 (95% CI: 0.8, 1.6, p = 0.80)). In a single study of HIV/HBV infected individuals, anti-hepatitis D antibody (anti-HDV) prevalence was low (1.5%). HCV antibody prevalence (anti-HCV) ranged from 0.7 to 18.0% among 12 cohorts in general populations. Among three studies which used PCR to confirm current infection, the pooled rate of HCV RNA confirmation among anti-HCV positive individuals was only 7.3% (95% CI: 0.0, 24.3).

CONCLUSIONS: Hepatitis B is highly prevalent in Malawi. There is a paucity of epidemiological data from rural areas where 85% of the population reside, and the Northern region. Priority research needs include large-scale representative community studies of HBV, HDV and HCV seroprevalence, assessment of children following introduction of the HBV vaccine in 2002, prevalence estimates of viral hepatitis among individuals with cirrhosis and HCC and data on HCV prevalence using PCR confirmation, to support a viral hepatitis strategy for Malawi.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)516
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2018


  • HIV Infections/complications
  • Hepatitis Antibodies/blood
  • Hepatitis B/complications
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens/blood
  • Hepatitis C/complications
  • Hepatitis D/complications
  • Humans
  • Malawi/epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • RNA, Viral/blood


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