Twenty patients with HBeAg-positive chronic liver disease were given large doses of recombinant leukocyte interferon for 4 weeks. Changes of hepatitis B virus DNA in livers and sera were analyzed by the molecular hybridization technique in paired biopsies obtained before and 2 weeks after treatment. Serum hepatitis B virus DNA was examined before, during and after the treatment until 4 weeks post-interferon.
Analysis of hepatic hepatitis B virus DNA revealed species that appeared to represent various forms of replicative hepatitis B virus DNA, i.e., relaxed circular, linear, supercoiled and single-stranded hepatitis B virus DNA, respectively. No evidence of integration of hepatitis B virus DNA in genomic DNA was obtained. Of 15 cases which were positive for hepatic hepatitis B virus DNA before treatment and in which paired biopsies were obtained, hepatic hepatitis B virus DNA became negative in 4, decreased in 5 and unchanged in 6. Among several types of replicative viral DNA in liver tissue, supercoiled hepatitis B virus DNA tended to remain after other forms were reduced.
A close correlation between hepatic and serum hepatitis B virus DNA was found in 37 liver biopsy samples and corresponding sera.
These results indicate that interferon treatment reduces serum hepatitis B virus levels by inhibiting viral replication in the liver and that persistence or reappearance of hepatitis B virus in serum after interferon is associated with replication.