Immune response to hepatitis B vaccination in drug using populations: A systematic review and meta-regression analysis

Geetanjali R Kamath, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a significant cause of liver diseases and related complications worldwide. Both injecting and non-injecting drug users are at increased risk of contracting HBV infection. Scientific evidence suggests that drug users have subnormal response to HBV vaccination and the seroprotection rates are lower than that in the general population; potentially due to vaccine factors, host factors, or both. The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the rates of seroprotection following HBV vaccination in drug using populations and to conduct a meta-analysis to identify the factors associated with varying seroprotection rates. Seroprotection is defined as developing an anti-HBs antibody level of ≥ 10 mIU/ml after receiving the HBV vaccine. Original research articles were searched using online databases and reference lists of shortlisted articles. HBV vaccine intervention studies reporting seroprotection rates in drug users and published in English language during or after 1989 were eligible. Out of 235 citations reviewed, 11 studies were included in this review. The reported seroprotection rates ranged from 54.5 – 97.1%. Combination vaccine (HAV and HBV) (Risk ratio 12.91, 95% CI 2.98-55.86, p = 0.003), measurement of anti-HBs with microparticle immunoassay (Risk ratio 3.46, 95% CI 1.11-10.81, p = 0.035) and anti-HBs antibody measurement at 2 months after the last HBV vaccine dose (RR 4.11, 95% CI 1.55-10.89, p = 0.009) were significantly associated with higher seroprotection rates. Although statistically nonsignificant, the variables mean age>30 years, higher prevalence of anti-HBc antibody and anti-HIV antibody in the sample population, and current drug use (not in drug rehabilitation treatment) were strongly associated with decreased seroprotection rates. Proportion of injecting drug users, vaccine dose and accelerated vaccine schedule were not predictors of heterogeneity across studies. Studies examined in this review were significantly heterogeneous (Q = 180.850, p = 0.000) and factors identified should be considered when comparing immune response across studies. The combination vaccine showed promising results; however, its effectiveness compared to standard HBV vaccine needs to be examined systematically. Immune response in DUs can possibly be improved by the use of bivalent vaccines, booster doses, and improving vaccine completion rates through integrated public programs and incentives.

Subject Area

Public health|Epidemiology|Immunology

Recommended Citation

Kamath, Geetanjali R, "Immune response to hepatitis B vaccination in drug using populations: A systematic review and meta-regression analysis" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1515636.