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Keywords:

  • chronic hepatitis B;
  • growth;
  • HBV DNA;
  • interferon-α therapy;
  • paediatrics

Interferon-α (IFN) has been approved as treatment for children with chronic hepatitis B (CHB). The aims of this study were to assess the impact on children’s growth of the disease itself and of IFN treatment. The growth of 142 children with CHB (70 IFN-treated, 72 untreated) was monitored for a minimum of one year. Regression analysis models were used to determine which of the variables most affected children’s growth. After adjusting for racial differences, the population of 142 children with CHB had a mean baseline height for age percentile of 39 and a mean baseline weight for age percentile of 38, which were significantly different (P < 0.0001) from the 50th percentiles of their respective reference populations. The height for age Z score of untreated children was inversely correlated with serum hepatitis B virus DNA and aspartate aminotransferase levels, and the weight for age Z score was inversely correlated with serum hepatitis B virus DNA levels. While undergoing IFN therapy, children displayed a ‘U-shaped’ growth pattern, such that height for age and weight for age Z scores at 3 or 6 months were lower than scores at baseline or 12 months. In this study the average child with CHB showed compromised growth even in the absence of IFN therapy. During IFN therapy, children’s growth was temporarily disrupted.