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Antiviral therapy for hepatitis B and C in Asians

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Abstract

The clinical features and treatment of chronic hepatitis C in Chinese patients are the same as in Caucasian patients except that 27% of Chinese chronic hepatitis C patients have hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 6a. In contrast, Chinese patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) differ from Caucasian patients because the Chinese patients are immunologically tolerant to hepatitis B virus (HBV), having acquired hepatitis B infection perinatally or in early childhood. In the treatment of CHB, the short-term aims of loss of hepatitis B virus early antigen (HBeAg) and HBV-DNA need to be reassessed. In 1296 Chinese CHB patients, 67.7% of those who developed complications of cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma, were HBeAg-antibody positive. Longer follow up of patients is, therefore, required to assess the time efficacy of a treatment regimen. After long-term follow up (median 90 months) of 206 Chinese CHB patients treated with interferon α (IFNα) compared with 203 untreated subjects, IFNα conferred no benefit in cumulative HBeAg seroconversion or in HBV-DNA negativity as determined by polymerase chain reaction assays or in decreasing long-term complications of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Lamivudine is a novel nucleoside analogue. In a recent 1 year study in 358 Chinese CHB patients, lamivudine treatment was associated with substantial histological improvement (including a reduction in fibrosis), with HBV-DNA suppression and normalization of alanine aminotransferase levels. However, lamivudine may have to be given on a long-term basis, as withdrawal of lamivudine results in rebound of HBV-DNA to pretreatment levels. The long-term effects of lamivudine are currently being assessed.

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