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Abstract

Previous studies reported that hepatitis B virus (HBV) deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) can be detected in livers of patients who received transplants for hepatitis B despite the absence of serological markers of HBV recurrence. Quantification of HBV DNA was not performed and presence of covalently closed circular (ccc) DNA was not analyzed in most studies. We aimed to quantify total and ccc HBV DNA in explant liver and post-orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) biopsies and to correlate the values with HBV recurrence post-OLT. Frozen liver tissue from 34 patients (9 with explant liver only, 9 with explant liver and post-OLT liver biopsies, and 16 with post-OLT biopsies only) in the National Institutes of Health HBV-OLT study was examined using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Among the 18 patients with explant liver, 7 were hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive, 8 had detectable serum HBV DNA, and 10 received antiviral therapy prior to OLT. Total and ccc HBV DNA was detected in explant livers of 17 and 16 patients, respectively. Of the 10 patients who received antiviral therapy pre-OLT, serum HBV DNA was undetectable in 8 at transplantation but 7 had detectable total and ccc HBV DNA in their explant liver. Of the 25 patients with post-OLT biopsies, total HBV DNA was detected in 83% and ccc DNA in 17% of 47 biopsies, although only 2 patients had HBV recurrence. In conclusion, total and ccc HBV DNA could be detected in explant livers of most patients despite antiviral therapy pre-OLT. Total but not ccc HBV DNA could be detected in post-OLT liver biopsies of most patients despite undetectable serum HBV DNA and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). Our findings suggest that occult HBV reinfection occurs in most HBV patients after OLT and continued administration of appropriate prophylactic therapy is important in preventing overt HBV recurrence. Liver Transpl 13:1137–1144, 2007. © 2007 AASLD.