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Keywords:

  • acute hepatitis;
  • chronic hepatitis;
  • exacerbation;
  • HBV;
  • histology

Delladetsima I, Papatheodoridis G V, Tiniakos D G, Hatzakis A & Tassopoulos N C (2012) Histopathology 61, 881–888

Significance of liver histology in HBsAg-positive, IgM anti-HBc-negative acute hepatitis B virus-related hepatitis

Aims:  The natural course of HBsAg-positive, IgM anti-HBc-negative acute hepatitis B virus (HBV)-related hepatitis is unclear. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prognostic significance of histological features and hepatic expression of HBV antigens in such patients.

Methods and results:  Fifty patients with HBsAg-positive, IgM anti-HBc-negative acute hepatitis B who underwent liver biopsy during the acute hepatitis episode were studied [HBeAg seroconversion (n = 16), persistently positive for HBeAg (n = 9), and persistently negative for HBeAg (n = 25)]. Twenty-six cases had features of typical acute hepatitis only (group A), and 24 cases had changes suggesting pre-existing chronic hepatitis (group B). HBcAg and/or HBsAg immunoreactivity was detected less frequently in group A than in group B (31% versus 79%, P = 0.01). HBsAg clearance was observed in 24% of patients, almost exclusively in cases with HBeAg seroconversion. HBsAg loss was significantly more frequent in group A than in group B (52% versus 0%, P < 0.001), and in cases without rather than with immunohistochemical expression of HBV antigens (55% versus 0%, P < 0.001). In group A, HBsAg clearance was observed in 80%, 54% and 0% of patients with mild, moderate or severe acute hepatitis, respectively (P = 0.034).

Conclusions:  Histological information is very important for the prognosis of HBsAg-positive, IgM anti-HBc-negative acute hepatitis B. HBeAg seroconversion with underlying typical acute hepatitis changes of mild to moderate severity without hepatic expression of HBV antigens strongly predicts subsequent HBsAg loss.