In a randomized clinical trial in 148 patients of azathioprine vs. prednisone treatment of chronic aggressive hepatitis and/or nonalcoholic cirrhosis, 20 were HBsAg positive on entry. In this subgroup sequential serum samples were investigated for HBs and HBe markers by radioimmunoassay. At the time of evaluation, 13 patients were still alive; their median age was 53 years (25 to 72) and median follow-up time was 46 months (23 to 82).
Of 16 patients with cirrhosis, 5 of 7 with persistence of HBeAg died, compared with 2 of 9 with anti-HBe. In three patients with anti-HBe, HBeAg reappeared several times with simultaneous rise in transaminase values.
The overall survival was 65% after 5 years. The prognosis of HBsAg-positive chronic liver disease seemed to depend on the presence of cirrhosis and HBeAg rather than on improvement in biochemical activity during immunosuppressive treatment.
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