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Keywords:

  • anti-HBe positive chronic hepatitis B;
  • combination therapy;
  • lamivudine resistance

Abstract

Background:  Monotherapy with a single antiviral agent is insufficient in controlling hepatitis B virus infection in the majority of patients with anti-HBe positive chronic hepatitis B. Interferon/long-term lamivudine combination therapy was evaluated to determine if this strategy would improve treatment efficacy and reduce the emergence of lamivudine resistance.

Methods:  In total, 36 consecutive anti-HBe positive patients were treated with interferon (3 MU subcutaneously three times weekly) and lamivudine (100 mg orally once a day) for 12 months. After completion of the combined treatment, all patients continued to receive lamivudine monotherapy indefinitely.

Results:  Overall, 35 patients (97%) showed virological response at 12 months. Four patients (11%) cleared HBsAg and developed anti-HBs. During the follow-up time, after the discontinuation of interferon, of 30 ± 12 months (range: 7–57 months), 13 patients (36%) exhibited breakthrough infection. The cumulative rates of breakthrough infection at the end of 1, 2, 3 and 4 years of treatment were 0%, 14%, 32%, and 59%, respectively.

Conclusions:  Combination therapy appears to be effective and may also delay the selection of lamivudine-resistant variants. However, controlled trials are definitely warranted to clarify the potential benefits of combination antiviral treatment over monotherapy.