Lamivudine for chronic delta hepatitis



Chronic delta hepatitis is a severe form of chronic liver disease caused by hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection superimposed on chronic hepatitis B or the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) carrier state. Therapy of delta hepatitis is currently unsatisfactory. We have evaluated lamivudine (3-thiacytidine), an oral nucleoside analogue with marked effects against hepatitis B, as therapy in 5 patients with chronic hepatitis D. Five men, ages 38 to 65 years, were treated. All had HBsAg, antibody to HDV, and HDV RNA in serum, as well as persistent elevations in alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels and liver histology showing severe chronic hepatitis with fibrosis or cirrhosis. Lamivudine was given in a dose of 100 mg orally daily for 12 months. Patients were monitored carefully and tested for HBsAg, HBV-DNA and HDV-RNA levels serially during the year of treatment and for 6 months thereafter. Liver biopsies were performed before therapy and repeated after 1 year. Serum levels of HBV DNA fell rapidly in all 5 patients, becoming undetectable even by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in 4. However, all 5 patients remained HBsAg- and HDV-RNA–positive, and serum ALT levels and liver histology did not improve. All patients tolerated therapy well. When lamivudine was stopped, HBV-DNA levels returned to pretreatment values without a change in disease activity. Lamivudine is a potent inhibitor of HBV-DNA replication, but does not improve disease activity or lower HDV-RNA levels in patients with chronic delta hepatitis.