Dept. of Internal Medicine and Liver Unit, Marino General Hospital, Rome, Italy. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many HBsAg-positive/HBeAg-negative patients show normal alanine aminotransferase levels. However, in this group of patients two different virological and clinical subsets do exist: inactive HBV carriers and patients with chronic hepatitis B with transient virological and biochemical remission. Natural history and outcome, severity of liver damage and need for liver biopsy and antiviral treatment differ significantly between these groups of patients. It is not always easy to distinguish between inactive HBV carriers and patients suffering from HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis with transient disease remission, as they share similar biochemical (normal serum ALT values) and virological (HBeAg negativity and low HBV DNA levels) features. In clinical practice, it is very important to differentiate inactive carriers from patients with chronic hepatitis B with spontaneous transient remission, as the former have a good prognosis with a very low risk of complications, while the latter have active liver disease with a high risk of progression to advanced hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Thus, a careful assessment and adequate follow-up periods are needed. The aim of this review, written in the form of a dialog between a hepatologist and a newly diagnosed patient with HBV infection and normal alanine aminotransferase levels, is to give evidence-based suggestions for the management in clinical practice of HBsAg patients, on the basis of more recent international guidelines, covering many aspects of the condition, including advice on lifestyle and vaccination, indications for liver biopsy and treatment, the types and side effects of treatment and treatment endpoints.