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Response to long-term lamivudine treatment (up to 5 years) in patients with severe chronic hepatitis B, role of genotype and drug resistance


E.J. Heathcote, Toronto Western Hospital, Fell Pavilion, Floor 6B Rm 156, 399 Bathurst St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 2S8. E-mail:


Summary.  Lamivudine is effective in suppressing viral replication, normalizing alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and improving histological appearance in HBe positive and negative hepatitis. It is unclear whether hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotype influences the response to lamivudine. We report the long-term response of patients with chronic hepatitis B with and without cirrhosis at baseline treated with lamivudine according to HBV genotype. Retrospective review of charts of all patients treated with lamivudine monotherapy between 1993 and 2002. Response to therapy defined as ALT in the normal range, undetectable HBV DNA, and in the HBeAg positive group loss of HBeAg and/or the development of anti-HBe. HBV DNA measured by the Digene Hybrid capture assay (sensitivity 1.4 × 106 copies/mL). YMDD mutation at rtL180M and rtM204V/I measured by restriction digest of amplified products. Genotyping performed by sequencing and phylogenetic tree analysis of the preS region of the virus genome. Seventy-one patients treated with lamivudine for 6 months or more, 53 (75%) were male, average age 47 years, 38 (54%) were HBeAg+ and 33 (46%) HBeAg−. Mean baseline HBV DNA viral titre was 1280.2 copies/mL and 518 copies/mL respectively. Cirrhosis was present in 30 (42%). Sera were examined for YMDD mutations at last patient visit in 61 (86%), and were detected in 45 (74%), there being no association with a particular genotype. Data from up to 5 years on lamivudine indicated no difference in biochemical or virological response between genotypes. Cirrhosis was more prevalent with specific genotypes. We found no influence of HBV genotype on the development of resistance to lamivudine, however liver disease severity was influenced by genotype.