Background and Aim: A small proportion of chronic hepatitis B patients have persistently detectable serum hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA despite lamivudine therapy. The incidence and clinical outcomes of patients who persistently have detectable serum HBV-DNA during lamivudine therapy was investigated.
Method: We enrolled 221 chronic hepatitis B patients who underwent lamivudine therapy for more than 6 months. Among them, 180 were HBeAg positive. Serum HBV-DNA, HBeAg, anti-HBe and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels were serially monitored. The study groups were defined, using a hybridization assay, as patients with reductions in serum HBV-DNA below the detectable level (group I) or patients with persistently detectable serum HBV-DNA (group II) during the initial 6 months of lamivudine therapy.
Results: The incidence of patients who had persistently detectable HBV-DNA was 7.7%. After the first year, the rates of viral breakthrough, HBeAg loss and serum ALT normalization of group I versus group II were 21% versus 63%, 38% versus 0%, and 71% versus 28%, respectively (P < 0.001). The log10 reduction of serum HBV-DNA at 6 months was −4.58 log10 for group I and −1.97 log10 for group II (P < 0.001, bDNA assay). There were no pretreatment lamivudine-resistant mutants in group II.
Conclusion: Lamivudine had little effect on serum HBV-DNA suppression, viral breakthrough suppression and rate of HBeAg loss and ALT normalization in chronic hepatitis B patients with persistently detectable serum HBV-DNA during the initial 6 months of therapy. Early termination of lamivudine therapy is advocated for these patients.