REVIEW: Hepatitis B and liver transplantation

Authors

  • PETER W ANGUS

    Corresponding author
    1. Victorian Liver Transplant Unit, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia
      PW Angus, Victorian Liver Transplant Unit, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, Heidelberg, Victoria 3084, Australia.
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PW Angus, Victorian Liver Transplant Unit, Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, Heidelberg, Victoria 3084, Australia.

Abstract

Liver transplantation in hepatitis B virus (HBV)-infected patients is very commonly followed by recurrence of infection in the transplanted liver. Most recipients with HBV recurrence will develop chronic hepatitis that follows a more aggressive course than is seen in non-immuno-compromized subjects and this frequently results in graft failure. The presence of hepatitis B e antigen or significant levels of HBV-DNA in the serum is highly predictive of recurrence and this has led to the view that patients, whose serum is positive for these conventional markers of replication, should be excluded from transplantation. The key to improving the results of transplantation in patients with HBV infection lies in the development of effective strategies to prevent reinfection. High dose anti-HBs immunoglobulin is effective in patients who are coinfected with hepatitis D, those transplanted for fulminant hepatitis and cirrhotic patients who have very low levels of viral replication prior to transplantation. Unfortunately, immunoprophylaxis does not seem to influence the outcome in those patients with higher levels of replication. There are several new orally active nucleoside analogues that are potent inhibitors of hepatitis B replication that may be effective for both the prevention and treatment of recurrent disease. The most promising are lamivudine (2′,3′, dideoxy, 3′, thiacytidine) and famciclovir (a guanosine analogue). Both agents have been extensively evaluated in animal models of HBV and have been shown to rapidly suppress viral replication. The initial experience with these agents in liver transplant recipients has been promising and a number of studies are currently underway to determine whether these drugs, used alone or in combination with immunoprophylaxis, are able to prevent recurrence in those patients at highest risk of post-transplant HBV recurrence.

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