Antiviral-resistant hepatitis B virus: can we prevent this monster from growing?


Fabien Zoulim, INSERM U271, 151 cours Albert Thomas, 69424 Lyon cedex 03, France. E-mail:


Summary.  Despite the recent progress in antiviral therapy of chronic hepatitis B, clinical experience has shown that antiviral drug resistance is inevitable with the administration of nucleoside analog monotherapy. The long-term persistence of the viral genome in infected cells and the high rate of spontaneous mutation is the basis for the selection of HBV mutants that are resistant to polymerase inhibitors. Selection of antiviral-resistant mutations leads to a rise in viral load and progression of liver disease. The incidence of antiviral resistance depends on the potency and genetic barrier to resistance of the antiviral drug, highlighting the importance of the choice if first line therapy. The determination of cross-resistance profile of each drug has allowed the design of rescue therapy for patients with virologic breakthrough. Early diagnosis and treatment intervention allow the majority of patients to maintain in clinical remission despite the occurrence of drug resistance. Clinical studies are ongoing to determine the best strategy to prevent or delay antiviral drug resistance and of its impact on liver disease.