• ALT;
  • chronic hepatitis B;
  • histological activity


Background: Serum alanine transaminase (ALT), hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA level and age are used in the evaluation of chronic hepatitis B (CHB).

Aim: We designed this study to evaluate liver histology with ALT and its relation with age and HBV DNA.

Methods: During the period of October 2006 to July 2009, 499 CHB patients were included in this study with detectable HBV DNA at PCR. Of these, 181 had normal ALT, 200 had ALT [>(1 × ULN) <(2 ULN)] and 118 had ALT≥2 ULN and were labelled as Group 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

Results: A strong positive correlation was found between ALT and histological activity index (HAI) and fibrosis. However, 29 (52.7%) and five (9.1%) in Group 1 with positive HBeAg status had HAI ≥4 and fibrosis ≥2 respectively. Among those with HBeAg-negative status, 66 (23.1%) had HAI >4 and 31 (10.8%) had fibrosis ≥2. In Group 2, 14 (15.7%) had moderate-to-severe HAI and 19 (21.2%) had fibrosis ≥2 when HBeAg was positive, in those with HBeAg negative 34 (30.6%) had moderate-to-severe HAI and 38 (34.2%) had fibrosis ≥2. An ALT value of ≥58.5 U/l had higher sensitivity than that of 80 U/l in predicting significant histological changes. Further, HAI and fibrosis were significantly greater in the age of >30 years.

Conclusions: We recommend liver biopsy in HBeAg-negative CHB over 30 years of age regardless of ALT level and starting treatment at ALT 1.5 × ULN instead of 2 × ULN.