Immunoglobulin (IG) for Hepatitis A

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Immunoglobulin (IG) for Hepatitis A

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
immune serum globulinGammagard, Gamunex, IGIVNex

This drug is given by injection into a muscle (intramuscular injection).

How It Works

Immunoglobulin (IG) contains antibodies that destroy the hepatitis A virus (HAV), preventing infection.

Why It Is Used

IG may be given to unvaccinated people at risk of infection with HAV, including:

  • People who need protection against HAV infection but are allergic to the vaccine.
  • People who need protection against HAV but can't get the vaccine because of a weakened immune system.
  • Children younger than age 1 who need to be protected against HAV infection. In some provinces, children may get IG if they are 6 months of age or younger, depending on the recommendation in that province.
  • Travellers visiting foreign countries where hepatitis A is a known problem or where sanitary conditions are questionable. Revaccination with IG is needed every 3 to 5 months. If a person frequently travels to or plans to stay for longer than 3 months in a country where hepatitis A is a problem, it is recommended that he or she receive the hepatitis A vaccine. For more information, see the Prevention section of the topic Hepatitis A.

How Well It Works

If given within 2 weeks of exposure to the virus, immunoglobulin (IG) is more than 85% effective in preventing hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection.1

Immunoglobulin has been effective in controlling some outbreaks of HAV.

Side Effects

Common side effects include:

  • Soreness and swelling around the injection site.
  • Low-grade fever.

In rare cases, a life-threatening allergic reaction may occur. This is more likely if IG is accidentally injected into an artery or vein.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

The sooner you get a shot of IG after being exposed to HAV, the greater the likelihood that infection will be prevented.

IG is safe for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

IG protection is only temporary, lasting about 3 months. If you are planning to stay longer than 3 months in an area where hepatitis A is a problem, you should receive a higher initial dose of IG, or you should get the hepatitis A vaccine (unless you are allergic to the vaccine). You should receive the same higher dose of IG every 3 to 5 months while you are still at risk.

IG is prepared from blood products obtained from paid donors. In Canada, no cases of transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or hepatitis B virus (HBV) through IG have been reported. The safety of IG prepared in countries other than in Canada or the U.S. cannot be guaranteed.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (2006). Hepatitis A. In LK Pickering et al., eds., Red Book: 2006 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, 27th ed., pp. 326–335. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine
Last Revised November 2, 2010

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