Ferruccio Bonino, Lidia Surace, Antonio Salvati, Nicola Salvati, Filippo Oliveri, Francesco Moriconi, Veronica Romagnoli, Gabriele Ricco, Barbara Coco, Piero Colombatto, Daniela Cavallone, Maurizia R. Brunetto, Quan Yuan, Riccardo Gattai
Background & Aims
The difference between the long-term outcome of low-viraemic (HBV-DNA≤20 000-IU/mL, LV-AC) and inactive HBsAg carriers (HBV-DNA≤2000-IU/mL, IC) remains to be defined. We studied prospectively 153 HBeAg-negative HBsAg-carriers with baseline HBV-DNA≤20 000-IU/mL and normal transaminases.
IC, LV-AC or chronic hepatitis B (CHB) (HBV-DNA persistently ≤2000-IU/mL, ≤20 000-IU/mL or >20 000-IU/mL respectively) were diagnosed after 1-year, 3-monthly monitoring. Thereafter IC and LV-AC were followed-up for additional 57.2 (8.5-158.3) months. HBV-DNA, HBsAg, HBV”core-related”Antigen (HBcrAg) and total-anti-HBc were quantified at baseline.
After the 1st year diagnostic follow-up CHB [higher HBV-DNA (P=.005), total-anti-HBc (P=.012), ALT (P=.007) and liver-stiffness (P=.021)] was identified in 20 (13.1%) carriers; baseline HBsAg≤1000IU/HBV-DNA≤2000IU/mL excluded the presence of CHB (NPV-100%). Thereafter, during the long-term follow-up none of 87 IC reactivated, 19 (21.8%) cleared HBsAg [older-age (P=.004), lower HBsAg (P<.001), higher yearly HBsAg decline (P<.001)]. Twenty-five of 46 (54.3%) LV-AC remained stable, 20 (43.5%) became IC and 1 (2.2%) developed CHB. The best single-point CHB and IC diagnostic-accuracies were total-anti-HBc (84.2%, NPV-98.2%) and HBV-DNA/total-anti-HBc/HBcrAg combination (89.5%, 93%-sensitivity, 84.8%-specificity) respectively.
Viraemia persistently ≤20 000-IU/mL predicts a benign clinical outcome: it was associated with transition to IC in 43% of LV-AC and to Occult HBV Infection in 20% of IC within 5-years. Nevertheless, 13.1% of individuals with low viraemia at presentation develops CHB within 1 year: 1-year HBV-DNA monitoring resulted the most accurate diagnostic approach that can be limited to at least a half of cases by the single point HBV-DNA/HBsAg quantification. The IC-diagnostic-accuracy combining HBV-DNA/total-anti-HBc/HBcrAg needs to be confirmed in further studies.