Background and Aim: We investigated whether intrahepatic markers could predict response in chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) patients treated with peg-interferon and adefovir for 48 weeks.
Methods: Intrahepatic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), total intrahepatic HBV DNA and the proportion of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg) positive hepatocytes in 16 hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) positive and 24 HBeAg negative patients were measured at baseline and at end of treatment.
Results: Baseline intrahepatic markers were not associated with sustained virological response (SVR) defined as HBV DNA < 2000 IU/mL and persistent normal alanine aminotransferase levels at the end of follow-up (week 72). At end of treatment, intrahepatic cccDNA and total intrahepatic HBV DNA in HBeAg positive patients were significantly lower in patients with HBeAg seroconversion (P = 0.016 and P = 0.010) with positive predictive values (PPV) for SVR of 80% and 80%, respectively. In HBeAg negative patients, intrahepatic cccDNA and total intrahepatic HBV DNA had declined significantly at end of treatment (P = 0.035 and P = 0.041) and corresponding PPV for SVR was 73% and 82%. In HBeAg positive patients, median proportion of HBcAg positive hepatocytes declined significantly (P = 0.002) at end of treatment. In HBeAg negative patients, the proportion of HBsAg positive hepatocytes had declined significantly at end of treatment (P = 0.0009). Using HBsAg ≤ 7.5% as a limit, PPV for SVR in HBeAg negative patients was 83%.
Conclusions: At end of treatment in HBeAg positive patients, intrahepatic cccDNA and total intrahepatic HBV DNA were predictive for SVR. In HBeAg negative patients a proportion of < 7.5% HBsAg positive hepatocytes at end of treatment was a strong predictor for SVR.