The presence of the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) in serum indicates that the individual's liver is infected with the hepatitis B virus and that the live virus continues to influence the host hepatocytes to manufacture HBsAg. The potential for transmission of hepatitis B and the possibility of liver disease exist in all such carriers of HBsAg. The duration of antigenemia is presently the most available indicator of an individual's transmission risk. Continued antigenemia may also reflect the presence of chronic liver disease.
Although persistent antigenemia may accompany known liver disease, it is more frequently encountered incidentally or as part of the screening of blood donors. In patients with acute hepatitis B requiring hospitalization, antigenemia infrequently lasts more than three months. Nielsen et al1 found 11 of 112 patients (9.8%) with HBsAg persisting 13 weeks after the symptomatic onset of acute hepatitis B. These 11 also had HBsAg at
Sampliner RE. The Duration of Hepatitis B Surface Antigenemia. Arch Intern Med. 1979;139(2):145–146. doi:10.1001/archinte.1979.03630390011007