Epidemiology and Infection

Maternal antibody to hepatitis B core antigen detected in dried neonatal blood spot samples

D. M. TAPPIN a1c1, K. GREER a2, S. CAMERON a3, R. KENNEDY a2, A. J. BROWN a2 and R. W. A. GIRDWOOD a2
a1 Department of Child Health, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Yorkhill, Glasgow, G3 8SJ, UK
a2 Scottish Inborn Errors Screening Laboratory, Stobhill General Hospital, Glasgow
a3 Regional Virus Laboratory, Ruchill Hospital, Glasgow


Despite Department of Health recommendations, universal antenatal testing for hepatitis B virus (HBV) is not performed throughout Scotland. We describe the evaluation of an assay to document past or present infection with HBV, by identifying maternal antibody in routine Guthrie dried neonatal blood spot samples taken when infants are 7 days old. A modified haemagglutination assay to detect antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (CORECELL, Green Cross) was validated and found to be 79% sensitive (44/56) and 100% (105/105) specific when used with dried blood spot samples made from panels of serum of known reactivity. Ninety-three percent (13/14) of HBV carriers were CORECELL positive. Sixty-six (0·5%) of 14044 routine Guthrie samples taken from babies born in Scotland from June–August 1992 were CORECELL positive indicating past or present maternal infection with HBV. A cross-sectional survey would document the maternity hospitals where universal antenatal hepatitis B screening should be urgently established.

(Accepted March 31 1998)

c1 Author for correspondence.