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Abstract

Chronic hepatitis B is usually a benign disease in Caucasian children; however, the long-term prognosis remains unsettled. This report describes the results of a 29-year longitudinal study including 99 white children with chronic hepatitis B, mainly acquired horizontally: 91 were hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) positive (4 had cirrhosis), and 8 were HBeAg negative at presentation. Of the 91 HBeAg-positive children, 89 underwent HBeAg seroconversion after a mean period of 5.2 ± 4.0 years and were included in the study. Of the 85 children without cirrhosis, one had HBeAg-negative hepatitis and the other 84 became inactive carriers. During a mean follow-up of 14.5 ± 6.1 years after HBeAg seroclearance, 4 carriers experienced reactivation, and 3 of them had HBeAg-negative hepatitis at the last follow-up. Of the 8 initially HBeAg-negative children, 2 had HBeAg-negative hepatitis, and 6 were inactive carriers. Of the 4 children with cirrhosis, 2 had hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and remained alive and 2 lost the histological features of cirrhosis in adulthood. Two patients with HBeAg-negative hepatitis and 1 with cirrhosis had experienced drug abuse. At the end of follow-up, 15 of the 89 initially HBeAg-positive patients and 2 of 8 initially HBeAg-negative children had cleared hepatitis B surface antigen. In conclusion, the overall prognosis for chronic hepatitis B in horizontally infected Caucasian children is favorable; however, some patients progress to HCC and HBeAg-negative hepatitis. Long-term monitoring is important, as is counseling on cofactors of liver damage, such as alcohol and drug abuse. (HEPATOLOGY 2006;43:556–562.)