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New Guidelines Endorsed for Pediatric Hepatitis B

Recommendations aim to improve management and treatment of children with the infection

MONDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- New recommendations seek to improve the screening, monitoring, initial management, and referral of children with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV), according to a special article published online Oct. 5 in Pediatrics.

Barbara A. Haber, M.D., of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and other nationally recognized North American pediatric liver specialists participated in a Nov. 11, 2008 workshop convened by the Hepatitis B Foundation. The workshop aimed to provide guidance to primary care practitioners on identifying children who are at risk of HBV, decide which additional tests are necessary, how often to monitor patients on the basis of test results, and when to refer patients to a pediatric liver specialist.

The experts agreed that HBV vaccination at birth remains the most effective approach to prevention. The panel endorsed the 2008 updated U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for HBV testing, screening and management. They also stressed the importance of building partnerships between pediatricians and liver specialists to ensure successful and appropriate management of affected children.

"Response of children to therapy is, so far, similar to that of adults, but the number of approved therapies for children has been limited," the authors write. "There are many unanswered questions that play into the decision to initiate treatment with antiviral therapy, not least of which are the potential efficacy, duration of therapy, and risk of drug resistance in view of the limited therapeutic options for children."

The workshop was partially supported with small unrestricted grants from pharmaceutical companies, and several authors reported financial relationships with these companies.

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