Beneficial effects of ‘lamivudine pulse’ therapy in HBeAg-positive patients with normal ALT*


  • *

    A part of the abstract of this paper was submitted for presentation at the Annual Conference of the American Association for the Study of the Liver Diseases (AASLD), at Dallas, November, 2001.

S. K. Sarin MD, DM, Department of Gastroenterology, G.B. Pant Hospital, New Delhi – 110 002, India. E-mail:


Summary.  Currently no therapy is given to patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection who are HBeAg positive with normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels. Steroid priming has been shown to enhance T-helper-1 (Th-1) cell response. Lamivudine may restore immunologic competence against HBV by causing a sudden decline in the level of the virus. We examined the efficacy of lamivudine pulse therapy on the seroconversion from HBeAg to anti-HBe. This was a prospective single-blinded trial including 27 patients with chronic hepatitis B, HBeAg positive with ALT ≤1.5 times upper limit of normal (ULN). Lamivudine was administered initially for 4 weeks, then stopped for 2 weeks and later restarted and continued till 3 months after seroconversion or completion of 2 years of therapy. Twenty-six patients completed the study. Lamivudine withdrawal led to a rise in ALT levels above the ULN in 11 (42.3%) patients at 6 weeks; seven of them (63.6%) lost HBeAg compared with only two of the 15 patients (13.3%), in whom ALT levels did not rise (P = 0.011). As one patient showed a relapse, a total of eight (31%) patients responded to lamivudine pulse therapy over a mean period of 17.3 ± 4.5 months. Responders had a higher serum albumin (P < 0.05), a lower fibrosis score (P < 0.05), and a relatively high baseline serum ALT levels (P = 0.024) than the nonresponders. YMDD mutations developed in three patients and none responded. No patient developed hepatic decompensation. Hence lamivudine pulse therapy has potential in converting HBeAg-positive, ‘not-treat-worthy’ (ALT < 1.5 ULN) patients to treat-worthy (ALT > 1.5 ULN) in 42%, with sustained HBeAg and HBV DNA loss in 31% patients. The effects are possibly because of a combination of antiviral and immunomodulating activities of lamivudine.