Effects of interferon-α treatment on hepatitis B virus antigen-specific immunologic responses in patients with chronic hepatitis B


Third Department of Internal Medicine, Nagoya University School of Medicine, 65 Tsuruma-cho, Showa-ku, Nagoya 466, Japan


ABSTRACT— Studies were undertaken to evaluate the relationship between the immune responses and the effectiveness of interferon-α treatment in 21 patients with HBeAg-positive chronic active hepatitis. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), obtained on four occasions during an 8-week course of IFN-α therapy, were cultured with recombinant HBcAg, purified HBeAg or pokeweed mitogen (PWM). During follow-up for 6 months after therapy, clearance of serum HBeAg was observed in eight patients designated as responders. Immunological responses of PBMC obtained before treatment did not differ between responders and non-responders. In responders, IFN-γ and anti-HBc production was depressed during therapy, but recovered to above the pretreatment level at the end of and/or after cessation of therapy, while lymphocyte proliferation was enhanced during therapy with a subsequent decline to baseline value. In non-responders, such changes were modest throughout the study, and anti-HBc response remained decreased even after cessation of therapy. These results indicate that PBMC of responders have immunologically different responses to IFN-α therapy when compared with non-responders.