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Abstract

Hepatitis B after liver transplantation is often fatal, and no proven medical therapy exists for this condition. We chose to study the potential efficacy of lamivudine therapy for patients with chronic hepatitis B after liver transplantation. Fifty-two patients with chronic hepatitis B after liver transplantation were treated in an open label, multicenter study. Each had detectable hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA in serum and 45 (87%) had detectable serum hepatitis B e antigen before treatment. Patients were treated for 52 weeks with lamivudine (100 mg daily). The primary endpoint was undetectability of HBV DNA; secondary endpoints included normalization of serum alanine transaminase (ALT) levels, disappearance of hepatitis B e antigen, and improvement in liver histology. After treatment, 60% of patients had undetectable HBV DNA by solution hybridization assay, 14 (31%) of the initially positive patients lost hepatitis B e antigen; hepatitis B surface antigen was undetectable in 3 (6%); and serum ALT levels normalized in 71%. Blinded histological assessments showed improvement in the histological activity index (P = .007 for periportal necrosis, .001 for lobular necrosis, and .013 for portal inflammation). YMDD variants of HBV, potentially associated with drug resistance, were detected in 14 (27%) of the patients. Repeat liver biopsies in 7 patients with the mutated virus were unchanged in 2, improved in 2, and worse in 3. We conclude that lamivudine is a potentially effective therapy for hepatitis B after liver transplantation.