Despite a considerable body of published research on hepatitis B in Bangladesh, researchers continue to lament the lack of reliable information about hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection epidemiology. The present review aims to provide a comprehensive survey of the literature with particular focus on a number of epidemiological questions, as well as a commentary on the trends of hepatitis B research as it has taken place in Bangladesh. The key themes to emerge from this review are: first, beyond noting a declining trend, it is difficult to provide conclusive estimates about HBV prevalence in the general population of Bangladesh. The majority of the studies, even the ones conducted on apparently healthy populations, fail to be adequately representative for the reasons explored in the article. Secondly, HBV infection in Bangladesh is sharply stratified across sociodemographic lines, which speaks to the role of awareness and risk exposure in HBV prevalence. Third, more research on occult infection rates is required to estimate the extent of risk posed by the current blood donation screening program, which relies exclusively on hepatitis B surface antigen as a biomarker. The same considerations apply for the comparative importance of vertical versus horizontal transmission and prevalence among particular risk groups like healthcare workers with high occupational exposure. Finally, while recent studies do allow us, albeit with some ambiguity, to draw conclusions about distribution of HBV genotypes in Bangladesh, there needs to be an added emphasis on molecular epidemiology. It is hoped that the present review, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, will serve as an up-to-date summary of the course HBV epidemiology research in Bangladesh has taken thus far, as well as crucial gaps to address going forward.
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