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Keywords:

  • epidemiology;
  • YMDD variant;
  • nucleoside analogue;
  • treatment;
  • liver histology

Abstract

The proportion of chronic liver disease associated with the pre-core mutant of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is increasing, particularly in Mediterranean Europe and in Asia. The pre-core mutant HBV is unable to produce hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg), so that patients with this variant do not present with HBV characterised by HBeAg in the serum. Pre-core mutant chronic hepatitis B infection usually proceeds to serious liver disease. Wild-type HBV infection may be mild and respond relatively well to interferon (IFN) alpha therapy, but IFN alpha is not an effective therapeutic option in pre-core mutant hepatitis B infection and new therapeutic options are needed. Clinical data show that lamivudine is an effective treatment for patients with pre-core mutant hepatitis B. There is profound suppression of HBV replication and improvement in indicators of liver disease in most patients. In conclusion, lamivudine is suitable for treatment of a wide range of patients with chronic hepatitis B, including those with pre-core mutant HBV infection. J. Med. Virol. 61:398–402, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.