The aims of this study were to evaluate the usefulness of quantitative hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) values for predicting HBeAg seroconversion in patients treated with peginterferon alfa-2a and to assess the dynamic changes in quantitative HBeAg during therapy, compared with conventional measures of serum hepatitis B virus DNA. Data were analyzed from a large, randomized, multinational phase III registration trial involving 271 HBV-infected HBeAg-positive patients who received peginterferon alfa-2a plus oral placebo for 48 weeks. HBeAg levels were measured serially during therapy using a microparticle enzyme immunoassay validated with in-house reference standards obtained from the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEIU/mL). In patients who achieved HBeAg seroconversion, levels of HBeAg consistently decreased during treatment and remained at their lowest level during the 24 weeks of posttreatment follow-up. After 24 weeks of treatment, 4% of patients with the highest levels of HBeAg (>or=100 PEIU/mL) achieved HBeAg seroconversion, yielding a negative predictive value of 96%, which was greater than that obtained for levels of HBV DNA (86%). Late responders to peginterferon alfa-2a could also be differentiated from nonresponders by continued decrease in HBeAg values, which were not evident by changes in HBV DNA.
Conclusion: These analyses suggest quantitative HBeAg is a useful adjunctive measurement for predicting HBeAg seroconversion in patients treated with peginterferon when considering both sensitivity and specificity compared with serum HBV DNA.