Famciclovir (FCV) and lamivudine (LAM) reduce viral replication in patients with recurrent hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT). Eighteen of 20 patients with insufficient response to FCV were treated with 100 mg LAM daily after OLT. These patients had shown nonresponse (n = 5), partial response (n = 7), or breakthrough (n = 6) during FCV therapy. Despite passive immunoprophylaxis with hepatitis B immunoglobulin after liver transplantation, HBV reinfection had occurred in 14 of 15 transplanted patients. HBV-DNA levels and the regions A to E of the HBV-DNA polymerase gene were analyzed before and after treatment failure to either therapy. Within 4 weeks on LAM, all but 1 patient showed a 95% average reduction of the HBV-DNA level. As with FCV, we did not observe any severe side-effects attributable to LAM. However, 7 patients developed a breakthrough within 12, 29 (n = 2), 32, 37, 54, and 145 weeks under treatment with LAM associated with the methionine-to-valine signature mutation (M552V) in the YMDD motif in all. With FCV, no unique, but a dominant, resistance pattern with the L528M mutation was identified for patients with breakthrough under FCV. In contrast, nonresponders or patients with partial response to FCV did not exhibit such mutations. Our results indicate that the L528M mutation is a risk factor for LAM breakthrough, because breakthrough during LAM occurred earlier in patients with this mutation (50 ± 10 weeks vs. 120 ± 21 weeks). Because breakthrough on either treatment is frequent for this specific group of patients, the use of combination therapy should be explored.
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