HBV and HCV infection in Japanese dental care workers
- Yumiko Nagao
- Hisako Matsuoka
- Takumi Kawaguchi
- Tatsuya Ide
- Michio Sata
Published online on: June 1, 2008
Protective measures against occupational exposure to the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) must be taken in order to prevent infection in dental care workers. To determine the best way to protect these workers, our study examined viral hepatitis infection in dental care workers in regions with a high prevalence of HCV infections in Japan. In total, 141 dental care workers (including dentists, dental hygienists and dental assistants) were enrolled. After a questionnaire to elicit demographic information was administered by an oral surgeon, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), antibody to HBs (anti-HBs), antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) and antibody to HCV (anti-HCV) were measured. When necessary, HBeAg, anti-HBe, levels of HBV DNA, anti-HBc IgM and HCV RNA in serum were measured. Of the dental care workers included, 68 (48.2%) had been immunized with a HBV vaccine. Only 9 wore a new pair of gloves for each new patient being treated, 36 changed to a new pair only after the old gloves were torn and 24 did not wear any gloves at all. No one was positive for HBsAg or anti-HCV, though 73 (51.8%) and 17 (12.1%) workers were respectively positive for anti-HBs and anti-HBc. The positive rate of anti-HBc varied directly with worker age and experience. Of the 68 workers immunized with HBV vaccine, 51 (75%) were positive for anti-HBs. Of the 63 workers who were not so immunized, 17 (27%) were positive for anti-HBs and 15 of these were also positive for anti-HBc. Immunized workers were more protected against HBV infection than non-immunized workers, indicating that HBV vaccine was a useful measure for protection against the infection. The anti-HBc positive rate was significantly higher among dental care workers than general blood donors, suggesting that frequency of exposure to HBV was greater in dental care workers. HBV vaccination should be made compulsory for all dental care workers who handle sharp instruments.