Department of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
There is no data on the relationship between hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) levels and liver fibrosis in hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB).
Serum HBsAg and HBV DNA levels in HBeAg-positive CHB patients with liver biopsies were analyzed. The upper limit of normal (ULN) of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) was 30 and 19 U/L for men and women respectively. Histologic assessment was based on Ishak fibrosis staging for fibrosis and Knodell histologic activity index (HAI) for necroinflammation.
140 patients (65% male, median age 32.7 years) were recruited. 56 (40%) had ALT ≤2×ULN. 72 (51.4%) and 42 (30%) had fibrosis score ≤1 and necroinflammation grading ≤4 respectively. Patients with fibrosis score ≤1, when compared to patients with fibrosis score >1, had significantly higher median HBsAg levels (50,320 and 7,820 IU/mL respectively, p<0.001). Among patients with ALT ≤2×ULN, serum HBsAg levels achieved an area under receiver operating characteristic curve of 0.869 in predicting fibrosis score ≤1. HBsAg levels did not accurately predict necroinflammation score. HBsAg ≥25,000 IU/mL was independently associated with fibrosis score ≤1 (p = 0.025, odds ratio 9.042).Using this cut-off HBsAg level in patients with ALT ≤2×ULN, positive and negative predictive values for predicting fibrosis score ≤1 were 92.7% and 60.0% respectively. HBV DNA levels had no association with liver histology.
Among HBeAg-positive patients with ALT ≤2×ULN, high serum HBsAg levels can accurately predict fibrosis score ≤1, and could potentially influence decisions concerning treatment commencement and reduce the need for liver biopsy.