Author(s): Pido B, Kagimu M
Abstract BACKGROUND: Medical students in the course of their clinical work are at risk of acquiring hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection or transmitting it to their patients. HBV immunization for medical students in Uganda is recommended but not strictly enforced. It is important to assess the prevalence of HBV infection in medical students in order to improve on the interventions to control this infection among them. OBJECTIVES: The objective of the study was to assess the seroprevalence rates of HBsAg and anti-HBc among clinical and preclinical medical students. METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study done over three months from November 2000 to January 2001 among Makerere University Medical students. A random sample of medical students was recruited from both the pre-clinical and clinical years. Blood samples from each participant were tested for HBsAg and anti-HBc. RESULTS: The overall prevalence was 11.0\% for HBsAg and 65.9\% for anti HBc. Nine pre-clinical students (12.2\%) were positive for HBsAg compared to 11 (10.2\%) clinical students. This difference was not statistically significant. However, clinical students were more likely to have been exposed to HBV with 86 (79.6\%) testing positive for anti-HBc compared to 34 (45.9\%) among preclinical students (p-value <001). Risk factors associated HBV infection included having a sexual relationship, accidental needlestick injuries, and unprotected exposure to patients' body fluids. CONCLUSION: Medical students need to be offered more sensitization and support regarding prevention of HBV infection including vaccination and the use of universal precautions for infection control.