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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What does hepatitis B serology surface anitbody 1 mean?

    I recently had a blood test for Hepatitis B serology and I have been told my surface antibody is only 1. What does this mean and I have also been told to get vaccinated for hepatitis B as I am on immunosuppressant drugs for MY Ulcerative colitis? Is this a live vaccine? What is the procedure?
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    We are the peak community-based hepatitis organisation in the Australian state of New South Wales. We take a partnership approach with people primarily affected by … View Profile

    This is a negative anti-HBs result. Any result <10IU/L (less than 10 International units per litre) is considered negative. The interpretation depends on the context: if it's someone who has just been vaccinated then the vaccine hasn't resulted in protection; if the person previously had anti-HBs >10 then (if they have a normal immune system) they're still protected by memory immunity. So the simple answer is – this is a negative result but interpretation depends on context.

    Hepatitis B vaccine is NOT a live vaccine. It is one of the safest vaccines known and is NOT a risk for someone with even profoundly reduced immune function. However efficacy (the likelihood of mounting an immune response to the vaccine) is lower in people on immunosuppressants. It is still worth doing however, as the risk of developing chronic infection if exposed to HBV is higher in people who are immunocompromised. The procedure is having 3 vaccinations over a 6 month period (usually). For someone at risk and who has impaired immunity we would recommend testing anti-HBs after vaccination to determine whether the vaccine has worked.

    These answers were provided by Dr Benjamin Cowie, Royal Melbourne Hospital.

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