Summary. Quantification of HBeAg levels has been found to be useful in monitoring and predicting the outcomes of interferon and lamivudine treatment in HBeAg-positive patients. The aim of this study was to determine whether quantification of HBeAg at baseline and on treatment could predict which patients would achieve HBeAg seroconversion after 96 weeks of entecavir therapy.
Sixty-five HBeAg-positive naïve chronic hepatitis B patients who were treated with entecavir at a dose of 0.5 mg once daily for 96 weeks were evaluated. Serum HBV DNA levels were assessed at baseline, week 24, 48 and 96; serum HBeAg levels were assessed at baseline, week 12, 24, 48, 72 and 96. Serum HBeAg levels were associated with a higher likelihood of HBeAg seroconversion to entecavir at weeks 96 than serum HBV DNA levels both at baseline and on treatment (at baseline: OR = 9.932, P = 0.003 vs OR = 5.045, P = 0.036; on treatment: OR = 112.5, P < 0.0001 vs OR = 47.782, P < 0.0001). A maintained reduction in HBeAg > 65% of pretreatment HBeAg values after 24 weeks of entecavir therapy is the strongest predictor for HBeAg seroconversion at week 96 (OR = 70.578, P < 0.0001).
Quantification of HBeAg at the start and early during therapy showed a higher predictive value than that of HBV DNA for HBeAg seroconversion by entecavir. A significant decrease in serum HBeAg levels at week 24 may be a useful on-treatment measurement in the early phase for predicting HBeAg seroconversion and identifying patients who will most likely benefit from finite entecavir treatment.