Admissions for hepatitis B reactivation in patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy remain unchanged from 1999 to 2014

Hepatol Int. 2016 Jan;10(1):139-46. doi: 10.1007/s12072-015-9659-4. Epub 2015 Aug 14.


Background: Reactivation of hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication in patients with chronic or past HBV infection receiving immunosuppressive therapy (IST) can be prevented through HBV screening and prophylactic antiviral therapy. We aimed to determine the occurrence of severe HBV reactivation secondary to IST in the era of HBV nucleos/tide analogs, the implicated IST, and outcomes.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of adult patients who were HBsAg+ and HBV DNA+ and had received IST within 90 days of admission to our hospital.

Results: Of 1446 patients with HBV diagnosis code admitted from 1999 to 2014, 17 had HBV reactivation, 8 of whom were admitted after 2009. Nine patients had hematologic conditions, three solid organ transplants, one hepatocellular carcinoma, and four other nonmalignant diseases. Implicated IST included chemotherapy, prednisone, antirejection therapies, budesonide, and a JAK-2 inhibitor. Three patients were screened for HBV prior to IST, but none was given antiviral prophylaxis. Six patients were initially admitted to other facilities, only two were tested for HBV, and one was started on antiviral therapy prior to transfer. At admission to our hospital, all 17 were HBsAg+ and HBV DNA+. Despite antiviral therapy, five patients decompensated, three died, and two had a liver transplant.

Conclusion: Severe HBV reactivation requiring hospital admission continues to occur because HBV screening was not performed and a prophylactic antiviral not given to those who tested positive. HBV reactivation can occur in a variety of clinical settings and in association with drugs not considered to be highly immunosuppressive.

Keywords: Antiviral therapy; Chemotherapy; Hepatitis; Hepatitis B virus; Liver failure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / drug effects
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Liver Failure / virology
  • Male
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Viral Load
  • Virus Activation / drug effects*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • DNA, Viral
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Immunosuppressive Agents