Interferon-α2a for chronic hepatitis B with e antigen or antibody: comparable antiviral effects on wild-type virus and precore mutant


Immunology Division. Jichi Medical School, Minamikawachi-Machi, Tochigi-Ken 329–04, Japan.


Summary. Recombinant interferon-α2a (IFN-α2a) in a total dose of 702 MU was given to 31 patients: nine with wild-type hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) (A); four with HBeAg and a mixed infection with wild-type HBV and precore mutants (B); 11 with antibody to HBeAg (HBeAb) and a mixed infection (C); and seven with HBeAb and precore mutants alone (D). HBV DNA was not cleared in any patient in groups A and B. By contrast, in patients with HBeAb, HBV DNA was ultimately lost in four patients in group C, as well as in 10 patients in group D. Thus, patients with HBeAb and infected with precore mutants alone (D) lost serum HBV DNA more often than those with HBeAg and wild-type HBV (A). Patients with low pre-treatment levels of HBV DNA cleared virus more frequently, and the response of precore mutant to IFN was comparable with that of wild-type HBV in patients who had a mixed infection. Based on these results, precore mutants do respond to IFN, and therefore, IFN is indicated in patients with HBeAb, especially those with low serum HBV DNA levels.