Modelling the decline and future of hepatitis A transmission in Australia

Jayasundara, D. , Hui, B. B., Regan, D. G., Heywood, A. E., MacIntyre, C. R. and Wood, J. G. Modelling the decline and future of hepatitis A transmission in Australia. J Viral Hepat. 13 October 2018. doi:10.1111/jvh.13018


Hepatitis A incidence has declined in most countries through a combination of prevention measures, augmented through the use of a highly effective vaccine. In Australia, the proportion of the population susceptible to hepatitis A infection has declined over time due to high rates of opportunistic vaccination as well as the sustained inflow of seropositive immigrants from high endemicity countries. These factors have contributed to a rapid decline in incidence. An age‐structured hepatitis A transmission model incorporating demographic changes was fitted to seroprevalence and disease notification data and used to project incidence trends and transmission potential for hepatitis A in the general population. Robustness of findings was assessed through worst‐case scenarios regarding vaccine uptake, migration and the duration of immunity. The decline in age‐specific seroprevalence until the introduction of hepatitis A vaccine in 1994 was well explained through a declining basic reproduction number (R0) that remained >1. Accounting for existing immunity, we estimated that the effective reproduction number (Reff ) <1 in the general population of Australia since the early 1990s, declining more rapidly after the introduction of the hepatitis A vaccine. Future projections under a variety of scenarios support Reff remaining <1 with continued low incidence in the general population. In conclusion, our results suggest that sustained endemic transmission in the general Australian population is no longer possible although risks of sporadic outbreaks remain. This suggests potential for local elimination of hepatitis A infection in Australia, provided that elimination criteria can be defined and satisfied in risk groups. The methodology used here to investigate elimination potential can easily be replicated in settings such as in the USA where sequential seroprevalence studies are supported by routine notification data.

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