Background and aims: HBsAg seroclearance is the most desired endpoint in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) but occurs uncommonly. Recent studies have shown baseline HBsAg levels to be predictive of HBsAg loss up to 10 years. We report the 28-year rates of HBsAg loss and outcomes in the Kawerau study cohort from New Zealand, and assess the predictive value of baseline HBsAg levels to predict long-term HBsAg loss.
Methods: The 1984 Kawerau community study identified 572 CHB patients, followed up for 28 years (41 % HBeAg-positive, median age 17 years, range 1-71 years). In 2012, surviving individuals attended a local clinic for an interview, blood tests and transient elastography.
Results: 384/218 (74 %) surviving individuals attended the clinic in 2012. Spontaneous HBsAg loss occurred in 145 (33 %) after 12,702 person-years of follow-up (1.14 per 100 person-years). Liver stiffness measurements were significantly lower if HBsAg loss occurred <50 years (mean 6.1 kPa) versus >50 years (mean 11.6 kPa), p = 0.0002. No HCC occurred following HBsAg loss (median follow-up 72 months). Predictors of HBsAg loss were older age and lower baseline HBsAg level (HR for HBsAg loss at 28 years 2.7 (95 % CI 1.7-4.2), 6.7 (95 % CI 3.9-11.4) and 9.4 (95 % CI 5.2-16.9), respectively, for HBsAg 1000-9999, 100-999 and <100 IU/mL compared to HBsAg >10,000 IU/mL at baseline, (p < 0.0001). Baseline HBsAg was a superior predictor of HBsAg loss compared to HBV DNA at all time-points: AUROC at 15 years: 0.87 (95 % CI 0.82-0.93) versus 0.73 (95 % CI 0.66-0.80) (p < 0.0001) and AUROC at 28 years: 0.74 (95 % CI 0.69-0.79) versus 0.67 (95 % CI 0.62-0.72) (p = 0.0007). The optimal cut-off HBsAg level to predict HBsAg seroclearance at 28 years is HBsAg <10,000 IU/mL (sensitivity 72 %, specificity 64 %, NPV 88 %).
Conclusions: Rates of HBsAg loss in our community cohort were high, and occurred earlier than previously reported. Earlier HBsAg loss was associated with less severe liver fibrosis. Baseline HBsAg level was a good predictor of long-term HBsAg loss up to 28 years and superior to HBV DNA.
Keywords: Baseline HBsAg level; HBsAg loss; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Seroconversion.