1Hepatology Unit, Centre for Digestive Diseases, Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.
One in four patients infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) at birth or in early childhood will develop cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma. Historically, guidelines have overlooked treatment in young people, as the immune tolerant disease phase is considered synonymous with chronic infection in the young. Current treatment aims to suppress HBV replication through long-term nucleos(t)ide therapy with little emphasis on virus eradication. To achieve HBsAg loss, it is accepted that effective immune control of virus is required, mimicking that seen in those who resolve acute HBV infection. We have recently challenged the accuracy of a generic immune tolerant state in young people, thus raising a potential role for earlier treatment. Here we report on our immunological analysis of HBV in young people and the role of a dedicated clinic; we make the case for earlier intervention to achieve effective immune control leading to better outcomes.