The incidence of persistent hepatitis B surface (HBs) antigenaemia was studied in 114 nephrotic children with glomerulonephritis. Twenty five (24 boys) of 28 cases of membranous glomerulonephritis were HBs antigen (HBsAg) carriers. Only 9 of the remaining 86 patients with nephropathies other than membranous glomerulonephritis were HBsAg positive. HBsAg immune complexes were seen in the sera by electron microscopy. On radioimmunoassay both HBsAg and antibody (anti-HBs), and HBeAg and antibody (anti-HBe) were often detected concurrently, HBsAg was not shown in the glomerular capillary wall. HBs antigenaemia persisted in 80% of patients after recovery from glomerulonephritis but remission of the proteinuria correlated well, although not fully, with seroconversion to anti-HBe. The natural history of hepatitis B virus (HBV) associated glomerulonephritis in childhood is one of slow recovery. A few patients are left with mild asymptomatic proteinuria but progressive renal failure is rare. The 14% incidence of membranous glomerulonephritis in nephrotic children in this area is much higher than that found by the international study of kidney disease in children in well developed countries and is probably related to a high HBV carrier rate. A search for HBV markers should be included in the investigation of persistent glomerulonephritis, particularly in countries with a high prevalence of HBV carriers.
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