Patients with and without loss of hepatitis B virus DNA after hepatitis B e antigen seroconversion have different virological characteristics

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Abstract

The characteristic differences between patients with and without loss of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA after achieving hepatitis B e antigen seroconversion were analyzed by comparing changes in HBV DNA and HBV core-related antigen levels during a period from 3 years before to 3 years after the seroconversion. Of the 24 seroconverters, 6 (inactive replication group) showed continuous loss of HBV DNA in serum after the seroconversion and the remaining 18 did not lose HBV DNA (active replication group). The HBV DNA level was similar between the two groups, while the HBV core-related antigen level was significantly lower in the active replication group than in the inactive replication group before the seroconversion. The levels of both HBV DNA and HBV core-related antigen decreased remarkably around the time of seroconversion in the inactive replication group, while these levels did not change or decreased slightly in the active replication group. After the seroconversion, the HBV DNA level was significantly higher in the active replication group than in the inactive replication group, while the HBV core-related antigen level was similarly low between the two groups. Because the serum level of HBV core-related antigen mainly reflects that of HBe antigen, the low level of HBV core-related antigen seen after seroconversion in both groups might have contributed to the occurrence of seroconversion. The precore and core promoter mutations which cause diminished excretion of hepatitis B e antigen were significantly more frequent in the active replication group than in the inactive replication group. It was therefore considered that the seroconversion was caused mainly by a decrease in viral replication in the inactive replication group, and mainly by a decrease in HBe antigen production in the active replication group. J. Med. Virol. 78:68–73, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, inc.

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