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Keywords:

  • Adefovir;
  • chronic hepatitis B;
  • entecavir;
  • lamivudine;
  • nucleoside analogues;
  • nucleotide analogues;
  • telbivudine;
  • tenofovir

Abstract

HBeAg seropositivity is a marker for active viral replication. In the natural history of chronic hepatitis B infection, HBeAg marks the first two of the four phases, namely the immune tolerant phase and the immune clearance phase, and is associated with highly replicative activity of the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Most HBV consensus reports and guidelines recommend antiviral therapy if the immune clearance phase is prolonged and if there is evidence of significant necroinflammation and fibrosis. Two main types of antiviral agents have been approved for treating patients in the immune clearance phase: interferon and nucleos(t)ide analogues (NUCs). The endpoints of therapy are viral suppression with HBeAg seroconversion, undetectable serum HBV DNA, normalization of serum alanine transaminase and improvement in the histological necroinflammatory and fibrosis scores. The ultimate goal of therapy is to obtain clinical benefit for the patient by reducing complications including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The choice between interferon-based immune modulators or NUCs that target the HBV DNA polymerase must be carefully weighed on an individual basis. Therapy with NUCs is often preferred by doctors and patients because it is easy to administer, with predictable efficacy and minimal side-effects. In specific patient subgroups such as those with decompensated disease, poor predictors of response or lack of response to interferon-based therapy and/or significant comorbidities that cannot tolerate interferon-induced side effects, NUCs therapy is the obvious choice. Entecavir and tenofovir are the treatments of choice because their efficacy and safety profile are better than lamivudine, adefovir and telbivudine. More importantly, there is a minimal risk of drug resistance during long-term therapy with these agents.