The only agent known to have a lasting beneficial effect in chronic hepatitis B is interferon alpha, which achieves long-term remission in 25-40% of the patients. The goals of treatment are to induce clearance of HBV DNA from serum, to return serum aminotransferases to normal, and to improve histological findings in the liver. The most important factors predictive of response to treatment are high serum aminotranferases levels, low serum HBV DNA concentrations, and active histologic changes on liver biopsy. The aim of this study was to assess the response to interferon alpha in patients with chronic hepatitis B and to analyze the factors predictive of response.
We conducted a multicenter retrospective study to investigate the effect of interferon treatment in 132 patients with chronic hepatitis B in overall terms and based on HBeAg, and factors predictive of response.
A overall sustained response was noted in 59 of 132 interferon-treated patients (45%) and 61 patients were nonresponders (46%). 12 patients relapsed (9%). None of the patients had negative HBsAg. No difference was observed in the response rate between the two treatment groups (HBeAg-positive and HBeAg-negative patients). Overall, high initial levels of serum AST and ALT predicted a good response. Age and liver biopsy findings were factors predictive of response in HBeAg-positive and HBeAg-negative patients respectively. Sex, epidemiological factors, treatment and type of virus did not correlate with the response to interferon.
A sustained response to interferon alpha was observed in 45% of the patients with chronic hepatitis B. HBeAg seroconversion was found in up to 50% of HBeAg-positive patients. None of the patients had negative HBsAg. Overall, the response rate was higher in patients with high pretreatment serum aminotransferase levels. Age was the predictive factor in HBeAg-positive patients, and histological features were predictive in the HBeAg-negative group. However, further studies in a larger patient population are necessary to obtain well-substantiated conclusions.
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