Background. In chronic infection with hepatitis virus B the fact that HBeAg becomes negative does not always mean suppression of viral replication.

Method. HBV replication was assessed in 74 patients with chronic hepatitis or viral B cirrhosis, in whom diagnosis was made according to clinical, biological, and histological criteria. The patients were divided into two groups: group I (36 patients with interferon-a therapy, 3 million U/m 2/ dose, 3 doses/week over a period of 4-6 months) and group II (control group of 38 patients who did not undergo interferon therapy). After a follow up period of 6 years in which patients underwent clinical, biochemical and serologic monitorization, HBV DNA was detected by the hybridization method on solid medium.

Results. During evolution the levels of trans-aminases became normal in both groups. The HBe Ag/Ab seroconversion rate at the end of the interferon therapy was 52.8% and the spontaneous HBe Ag/Ab serocon-version rate was 72.7% in group II after an average evolution of 6 years. HBs Ag/Ab seroconversion was not detected in any patient. Assessment of viral replication by HBV DNA testing at the end of the follow up period showed higher levels as compared to the HBeAg testing (69.4% vs. 25% in group I, 55.2% vs. 7.9% in group II). The absence of viral replication (HBV DNA negative) had similar rates in both groups (30.6% in group I vs. 44.8% in group II, p>0.9) and HBV DNA titers in the two groups were not significantly different at the end of the follow up period. In both groups, HBV DNA titers were significantly higher in patients with positive HBeAg. The concordance between the two viral markers was 100%.

Conclusion. Because of the fluctuating evolution, long-term follow up and monitorization (including HBV DNA testing) of patients with chronic hepatitis B and of inactive HBsAg carriers are necessary.



Chronic hepatitis B, HBV DNA, children, sero-conversion