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Keywords:

  • HBV DNA;
  • HBcrAg;
  • cccDNA;
  • HBsAg;
  • lamivudine;
  • entecavir

Abstract

Nucleos(t)ide analogues are utilized for the treatment of chronic HBV infection, and HBe seroconversion and HBV DNA levels are commonly used as markers of viral status and as primary treatment endpoints. Recently, a new assay was prepared for the detection of serum HBV core-related antigen (HBcrAg), consisting of HBcAg, HBeAg, and p22cr, which is a precore protein from amino acid −28 to at least amino acid 150, by coding the precore/core region. In this study, we examined the correlation between serum HBcrAg concentration and viral status by the analysis of serum HBeAg, HBsAg, peripheral HBV DNA, and intrahepatic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) in 57 chronic hepatitis B patients. Intrahepatic cccDNA was detected in all 57 patients, 42 patients were HBcrAg-positive, and serum HBcrAg concentration level was closely correlated with cccDNA. Additionally, positive HBcrAg concentration level results were observed in 6 out of 13 HBsAg seroclearance patients and 20 out of 31 HBV DNA-negative patients. Moreover, the correlation between HBcrAg and cccDNA in these 31 HBV DNA-negative patients was statistically significant (r = 0.482, P = 0.006). These data suggest that serum HBcrAg concentration is well correlated with intrahepatic cccDNA level, and that the measurement of serum HBcrAg may be clinically useful for monitoring intrahepatic HBV viral status, especially in patients under treatment with nucleos(t)ide analogues. J. Med. Virol. 81:27–33, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.