Occurrence and clinical outcome of lamivudine-resistant hepatitis B infection after liver transplantation



Lamivudine treatment of hepatitis B after orthotopic liver transplantation (OLT) is often accompanied by fast viral-resistance formation. Although no clinical data are available, in vitro data indicate that lamivudine-resistant reinfection has a mild course because of defective viral replication. Between 1996 and 1999, a total of 34 patients were treated with lamivudine because of hepatitis B recurrence after OLT. All patients developed reinfection despite long-term passive immunoprophylaxis with hepatitis B immunoglobulin, diagnosed by positive hepatitis B surface antigen and positive hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA. Before treatment with lamivudine, 21 of these patients underwent a course of famciclovir and developed resistance. Monthly laboratory tests and sequential liver biopsies were performed during the follow-up period. Nineteen of 34 patients (56%) developed lamivudine resistance during the follow-up period of 12 to 49 months. One- and 3-year graft survival rates after the diagnosis of lamivudine resistance were 89% and 66%, respectively. In most cases, lamivudine resistance was associated with high viral replication (3,012 ± 574 pg/mL 1 month after the diagnosis of lamivudine resistance); however, liver enzyme levels were only moderately elevated (alanine aminotransferase [ALT], 45 ± 16 U/L). Only 3 patients (15%) showed a rapid increase in ALT level to more than 500 U/L within 3 months after resistance developed. All other patients had mildly elevated liver enzyme levels during the first 6 to 8 months after lamivudine resistance. In the later course, liver enzyme levels increased in most patients. Fourteen patients with elevated transaminase levels were switched to lamivudine plus interferon alfa (n = 8) or lamivudine plus famciclovir therapy (n = 6). This combination was successful in most cases, decreasing HBV DNA and liver enzyme levels. Four patients with lamivudine resistance died during follow-up, only 1 patient because of HBV reinfection. In addition, 2 patients underwent retransplantation because of hepatitis B cirrhosis of the first graft. Compared with historic courses of wild-type recurrence, lamivudine-resistant reinfection is characterized by a milder clinical course. Fulminant cases were not observed; however, in three cases, chronic liver failure developed. The combination of different antivirals diminished viral replication after lamivudine resistance. In the future, new antiviral agents, such as adefovir, might further expand therapeutic options.