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Abstract

Long-term antiviral chemotherapy using the nucleoside analogue ganciclovir was undertaken with the aim of eliminating hepadnaviral covalently closed circular (CCC) DNA from the livers of ducks that were congenitally infected with the duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV). Twenty- four weeks of ganciclovir therapy caused a substantial reduction in viremia, intrahepatic viral DNA replicative intermediates, and viral core proteins. Unfortunately, ganciclovir therapy did not substantially affect CCC DNA or viral RNA levels, and the treatment resulted in an increase in the intrahepatic expression of the viral envelope proteins, pre-S and S. By the completion of therapy, the viral envelope proteins had assembled into large aggregates within the cytoplasm of most hepatocytes. Viral replication in the bile duct epithelial cells and in the extrahepatic sites was likewise not affected by long-term ganciclovir therapy. In conclusion, 24 weeks of ganciclovir therapy decreased most viral replication markers within the liver, except for those of viral CCC DNA, RNA, and envelope proteins. Long-term therapeutic strategies using nucleoside analogs such as ganciclovir should be used with caution in chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. The careful monitoring of serum and hepatic markers of viral replication may therefore be important to avoid possible toxic consequences, such as the selective accumulation of viral proteins.