*College of Medicine, Liver Disease Research Center, King Saud University †Department of Medicine, Liver Unit, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Calgary, AB, Canada ‡Department of Gastroenterology, Riyadh Military Hospital, Riyadh §Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, King Fahad General Hospital, Jeddah ∥Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology ¶Department of Pathology, King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center Departments of #Pathology **Hepatobiliary Sciences & Liver Transplantation, King Abdulaziz Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
BACKGROUND AND AIM::
The data on the prevalence and predictors of significant fibrosis (≥F2, METAVIR) in chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) patients with low viremia are limited. We aimed to assess both the prevalence predictors of ≥F2 fibrosis in hepatitis B envelope antigen-negative patients with HBV DNA <20,000 IU/mL.
Hepatitis B envelope antigen-negative patients (n=213) with mean HBV DNA <2000 IU/mL (n=97) and HBV DNA 2000 to 20,000 IU/mL (n=116) were included and all had liver biopsy. Variables significantly associated with ≥F2 fibrosis on an univariate analysis were included in a multivariate logistic regression model.
Overall, 40 (18.8%) patients had ≥F2 fibrosis, with no difference between those with mean HBV DNA <2000 IU/mL (19.6%) compared with patients with HBV DNA of 2000 to 20,000 IU/mL (18.1%; P=0.782). Fibrosis ≥F2 was similar in patients with HBV DNA <2000 versus 2000 to 20,000 IU/mL in relation to varying alanine aminotransferase thresholds (P>0.05), and was less frequent in persistently normal alanine aminotransferase patients (13.6%) when compared with those with elevated or fluctuating levels (25.3%, P=0.030). Fewer patients under 40 years of age had ≥F2 fibrosis (12.5%) as compared with older ones (28.2%; P=0.004). Logistic regression analysis identified higher aspartate aminotransferase [odds ratio (OR), 6.21; 95% confidence interval (CI), 2.48-15.54; P<0.0001], lower albumin (OR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.78-0.95; P=0.002), platelet count (OR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.98-0.99; P=0.013), and age (OR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.01-1.09; P=0.024) as independent predictors of significant fibrosis.
A small but significant minority of HBV patients with low viremia harbor significant fibrosis, although its rate is not different in those with viremia above or below 2000 IU/mL. Our findings may guide in decisions regarding liver biopsy and treatment in this category of patients.