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Keywords:

  • HBeAg seroconversion;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • maternal transmission

Abstract

Background and aims: This cohort study investigated the long-term effect of maternal hepatitis B virus (HBV) sero-status on the spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion in offspring with chronic HBV infection.

Methods: A total of 185 HBeAg-positive chronic HBV-infected children, with maternal HBV seromarkers checked, were enrolled. The median age at enrolment and follow-up duration was 5.7 years (range, neonate to 16.5 years) and 20.2 years (range, 4.2–31.0 years) respectively. These children were grouped according to the initial maternal HBsAg and HBeAg status: (i) children of non-carrier mothers (n=48); (ii) children of HBeAg-negative chronic HBV-infected mothers (n=57); (iii) children of HBeAg-positive chronic HBV-infected mothers (n=80). HBV seromarkers and liver function profiles of these children were performed at 6-month intervals.

Results: One hundred and twenty-one (65.4%) subjects had achieved spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion at the end of this follow-up study. Spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion was achieved in 83.3% of children with non-carrier mothers, 73.7% of children with HBeAg-negative chronic HBV-infected mothers and 48.8% of children with HBeAg-positive mothers during similar duration (P<0.001). Positive maternal HBeAg and genotype C were associated with delayed spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion in multivariate analysis (P=0.01 and P=0.002 respectively). In children of HBeAg-positive chronic HBV-infected mothers, persistent presence of maternal HBeAg showed a trend of association with delayed HBeAg seroconversion in their offspring (P=0.06). Children of late maternal HBeAg seroconversion (>40 years old) had delayed HBeAg seroconversion compared with those of early HBeAg seroconversion mothers (P=0.06).

Conclusions: Persistence of maternal HBeAg is an important risk factor for delayed spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion in children with chronic HBV infection.