• chronic hepatitis B;
  • entecavir;
  • HBeAg seroconversion;
  • HBsAg clearance;
  • Pegasys;
  • peginterferon α-2a

Summary.  The focus of this study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of sequential peginterferon α-2a (Pegasys) therapy for chronic hepatitis B with acute exacerbation [ALT > 10 × upper limit of normal (ULN), bilirubin <2.0 mg/dL]. Four groups of patients categorized by HBeAg status and treatment regimens were studied since May 2007. Nineteen HBeAg-positive patients (Group 1) had received entecavir  pretreatment  (when ALT > 10 × ULN) plus Pegasys (180 μg/kg/week, when ALT was 5–10 × ULN) for 24 weeks. Thirteen HBeAg-negative patients (Group 2) had the same protocol for 48 weeks. In both groups, entecavir was then discontinued 14 days after the initiation of Pegasys. The results were compared, respectively, to 35 HBeAg-positive patients (Group 3) and 24 HBeAg-negative patients (Group 4), all with ALT > 5 × ULN, under continual entecavir monotherapy. The ALT levels of patients in Group 1 and 2 who had received entecavir pretreatment for a duration of 19.63 ± 3.34 days were below four times of ULN following 4 weeks of Pegasys treatment. At week 96, the rates of sustained virological response were 69.2% (9/13) and 80% (8/10), and the relapse rates were 23.1% (3/13) and 11.2% (1/9) for HBeAg-positive and HBeAg-negative patients with two-step Pegasys treatment, respectively. The HBeAg seroconversion rates were 46.2% in Group 1, and 42.1% in Group 3; HBsAg loss rates were 15.4% (2/13) in Group 1, and 30% (3/10) in Group 2, whereas none achieved HBsAg loss with entecavir monotherapy (Group 3 and 4). The two-step Pegasys treatment offers an alternative, other than the nucleos(t)ides, for treating chronic hepatitis B with acute exacerbation and provides a safe, efficacious, short-term and finite strategy.