RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Quantitative analysis of hepatitis D virus RNA and hepatitis B surface antigen serum levels in chronic delta hepatitis improves treatment monitoring.

BACKGROUND/AIMS: Treatment of chronic delta hepatitis is long and difficult and better monitoring is needed.

METHODS: In this study, hepatitis delta virus (HDV) RNA, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA were retrospectively quantified in 53 patients with hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-negative chronic hepatitis delta. Twenty-one had received 28 courses of 3-5 MU interferon-alpha2b (IFN-alpha2b) thrice weekly for a median of 12.6 months (interquartile range [IQR]: 7.3-31.6), five had received eight courses of 100 mg lamivudine (LAM) daily for 23.6 months (IQR: 8.4-61.5) and 27 were untreated. The controls were 54 untreated, randomly selected, HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B patients without delta infection. Quantification of serum HDV RNA, HBsAg and HBV DNA were performed at baseline, during and at the end of treatment and end of follow up.

RESULTS: Untreated patients had significantly higher median HBsAg levels than controls (5,872 vs 3,501 IU/ml; P = 0.046), but lower median HBV DNA levels (2.933 vs 6.459 log10 copies/ml; P < 0.001). Median baseline HDV RNA (6.374 log10 copies/ml) was similar in IFN-alpha2b-treated, LAM-treated and untreated patients. At the end of treatment, IFN-alpha2b significantly suppressed in paired measurements HDV RNA (P = 0.012) and HBsAg (P = 0.043), but LAM was inefficient. In IFN-alpha2b-treated patients, HDV RNA became undetectable in five patients within a median of 30 months (IQR: 8-90), followed by a slower decrease in HBsAg.

CONCLUSIONS: In untreated chronic delta hepatitis, suppressed HBV replication is associated with significantly increased HBsAg serum levels. IFN-alpha2b significantly suppresses both HDV RNA and HBsAg, but LAM has no effect. Long-term IFN-alpha2b treatment (IQR: 1.5-5.0 years) appears necessary for undetectable serum HDV RNA and further treatment is required for HBsAg loss. Monitoring of HDV RNA and HBsAg serum levels in patients with chronic delta hepatitis provides insight during treatment.

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