• HBeAg seroconversion;
  • lamivudine;
  • relapse;
  • ultrasensitive HBV DNA assay

Lamivudine-induced HBeAg seroconversion may not be durable in Korean patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. It is unknown whether virological response during lamivudine treatment affects the post-treatment outcome. We retrospectively analysed 124 consecutive HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients treated with lamivudine. Lamivudine was given at a dose of 100 mg per day. HBV DNA levels in sera obtained before and during therapy were measured by the Digene Hybrid Capture II assay and Digene Ultrasensitive Hybrid Capture II assay, respectively. HBeAg seroconversion was achieved in 42 of the 124 patients (33.8%) treated with lamivudine. Mean duration of treatment in HBeAg seroconverters was 12.86 ± 4.44 months. During the follow-up period, the cumulative relapse rates at 3 months and 6 months post-treatment in 42 patients with HBeAg seroconversion were 40.5% and 57.4%, respectively. Among 31 seroconverted patients whose sera were available at the second month of treatment, HBV DNA remained at > 4.7 × 103 genomes/mL in 15 patients and decreased to < 4.7 × 103 genomes/mL in the remaining 16 patients. HBV DNA levels at the second month of treatment was not related with relapse after discontinuation of treatment (66.7% vs. 43.8%, P= 0.2). At the time of HBeAg seroconversion, HBV DNA remained at > 4.7 × 103 genomes/mL in five patients and decreased to < 4.7 × 103 genomes/mL in the remaining 37 patients. Relapse rates were increased in patients who remained at > 4.7 × 103 genomes/mL compared with patients with HBV DNA levels < 4.7 × 103 genomes/mL (100% vs. 51.4%, P < 0.001). Thus, monitoring of serum HBV DNA at the time of HBeAg seroconversion may be helpful for predicting relapse in patients with lamivudine-induced HBeAg seroconversion.