Abstract: Background/Aims: Seroconversion (SC) from hepatitis B envelope antigen (HBeAg) to anti-HBe usually indicates lower viral loads, resolved hepatitis activity and improved long-term outcomes. However, the role of viral factors in the development of SC remains largely unknown. We thus comprehensively studied these factors in 25 patients with sustained HBeAg SC and seven control patients with sustained loss of HBeAg.
Methods: We determined viral factors in serum samples obtained 1 year before, 6 months before, 3 months before, at the time of, 6 months after and 1 year after HBeAg SC or HBeAg loss. Precore A1896 and basal core promoter T1762/A1764 mutants were determined by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assays. Serum HBV levels were determined by a real-time PCR assay.
Results: We found that decline of serum viral load, frequently accompanied by hepatitis exacerbation, occurred within 1 year before HBeAg SC. The proportions of precore and BCP mutations also increased gradually throughout the process of HBeAg SC. The virologic features were similar between HBeAg SC group and HBeAg loss group. Before HBeAg SC or loss, genotype B patients had higher serum viral loads and lower proportions of BCP mutation compared with genotype C patients.
Conclusion: Our findings suggested that viral factors correlate with the development of sustained HBeAg SC or loss.