Exacerbation of chronic hepatitis B infection after delivery


Prof. Dr H. L. A. Janssen, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center Rotterdam, ‘s Gravendijkwal 230, Room Ca 326, 3015 CE Rotterdam, the Netherlands. E-mail: h.janssen@erasmusmc.nl


Summary.  During pregnancy several alterations in the immune status allow mothers to tolerate the genetically different foetal tissues. We investigated the evolution of liver disease during and after pregnancy in chronic hepatitis B patients. Between 1998 and 2006 there were 38 pregnancies in 31 chronic hepatitis B ‘s’ antigen-positive women at our liver unit. Twenty-four subjects (63%) were hepatitis B ‘e’ antigen (HBeAg)-positive, 14 (37%) HBeAg-negative. In 13 pregnancies (34%), lamivudine therapy was started during the last trimester of pregnancy to lower hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA levels to reduce the risk of vertical transmission. A significant increase in liver disease activity after pregnancy, defined as a three times increase in alanine aminotransferase (ALT) within 6 months after delivery, occurred in 17 of 38 patients (45%). In those treated with lamivudine during the last trimester of pregnancy, this occurred in even 8/13 patients (62%). Prediction during pregnancy of these exacerbations was not possible using HBV DNA, ALT level, HBeAg status or any other characteristic. The median maximal ALT of these exacerbations was 4.0 × ULN and none led to decompensated liver disease. In conclusion, a significant increase in liver inflammation occurs often after pregnancy. This may be due to a reactivation of the immune system after delivery. Based on our data we recommend monitoring closely and if necessary treating women with chronic HBV shortly after delivery.