Hepatitis B surface antigen and antibody to hepatitis B core antigen were measured in 232 long-term psychiatric patients. The aims of the study were to determine the prevalence of infection and to relate it to factors such as age, sex, duration of hospital stay and diagnosis.
There was both an increased rate and increased evidence of past infection amongst the patients tested relative to the general population. There was no statistical significant difference between the antibody positive group compared to the antibody negative group for age, sex and duration of hospital stay, unlike that found in studies of mentally handicapped patients. There was a positive association between the presence of antibody and patient diagnosis. Patients with mental handicap appear to have a predilection for hepatitis B.
Further work needs to be done to elucidate the epidemiology of hepatitis B in psychiatric patients and evaluate the reservoir of infection present.