A systematic review of the epidemiology of hepatitis A in Africa

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Abstract Background Hepatitis A, caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV), is a vaccine preventable disease. In Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), poor hygiene and sanitation conditions are the main risk factors contributing to HAV infection. There have been, however, notable improvements in hygiene and sanitation conditions in many LMICs. As a result, there are studies showing a possible transition of some LMICs from high to intermediate HAV endemicity. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that countries should routinely collect, analyse and review local factors (including disease burden) to guide the development of hepatitis A vaccination programs. Up-to-date information on hepatitis A burden is, therefore, critical in aiding the development of country-specific recommendations on hepatitis A vaccination. Methods We conducted a systematic review to present an up-to-date, comprehensive synthesis of hepatitis A epidemiological data in Africa. Results The main results of this review include: 1) the reported HAV seroprevalence data suggests that Africa, as a whole, should not be considered as a high HAV endemic region; 2) the IgM anti-HAV seroprevalence data showed similar risk of acute hepatitis A infection among all age-groups; 3) South Africa could be experiencing a possible transition from high to intermediate HAV endemicity. The results of this review should be interpreted with caution as the reported data represents research work with significant sociocultural, economic and environmental diversity from 13 out of 54 African countries. Conclusions Our findings show that priority should be given to collecting HAV seroprevalence data and re-assessing the current hepatitis A control strategies in Africa to prevent future disease outbreaks.