Interferon alpha treatment and retreatment of hepatitis B e antigen-negative chronic hepatitis B

Gastroenterology. 2001 Jul;121(1):101-9. doi: 10.1053/gast.2001.25524.


Background and aims: In hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-negative chronic hepatitis B (CHBe-), interferon (IFN) achieves very low biochemical sustained response rates. No information exists on retreatment.

Methods: Two hundred sixteen CHBe- patients treated for 5 or 12 months with 3 MU IFN-alpha2b thrice weekly and retreated (51 patients, 60 courses) because of no response or relapse were retrospectively analyzed.

Results: After 7.0 years of median follow-up, 39 naive patients (18.1%) were still in biochemical and virologic remission after a single IFN course. Longer treatment and a biochemical response within 4 months were significant predictors, inversely related to relapse by multivariate analysis (relative hazard [RH], 0.611; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.448-0.834 and RH, 0.290; 95% CI, 0.192-0.438, respectively). Retreatment resulted in 18.4% sustained response by intention-to-treat (18 of 98 patients). Patients with sustained response had persistently normal alanine aminotransferase levels, undetectable hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA by molecular hybridization, and significant improvement of histologic grade, and 32% of them lost hepatitis B surface antigen. In sustained responders, serum HBV DNA was undetectable or very low at the end of treatment and at the end of follow-up (median 3934 and 903 copies/mL, respectively) by quantitative polymerase chain reaction.

Conclusions: IFN induced long-term biochemical and virologic remission in approximately 18% of naive or retreated patients with CHBe-. Sustained responders exhibited significant histologic improvement and a high rate of HBsAg loss.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens / blood*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / immunology
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / pathology
  • Humans
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens
  • Interferon alpha-2
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Recombinant Proteins