Study suggests possible airborne Hepatitis B virus transmission

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A study from Korea has reported that the hepatitis B virus (HBV) can be detected in surgical smoke from laparoscopic surgeries on patients with hepatitis B.

Eleven 11 patients who underwent laparoscopic or robotic abdominal surgeries between October 2014 and February 2015 at Korea University Anam Hospital were included in the study. A high efficiency collector was used to obtain surgical smoke in the form of hydrosol. The smoke was analyzed by using nested PCR.

All 11 patients had positive hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) prior to the surgery, while two had detectable HB surface antibody (HBsAb), two were positive for hepatitis B e antigen, and three were on anti-HBV medications.

The hepatitis B virus was detected in surgical smoke in 10 of the 11 cases.

Although preliminary, these findings highlight the need to recognize and understand the risk when treating patients with HBV and take steps to control surgical smoke during laparoscopic procedures to protect doctors and other healthcare workers from exposure to the virus.

The study is reported online August 2, 2016 in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine.