Pediatric hepatitis B treatment

Ann Transl Med. 2017 Feb;5(3):37. doi: 10.21037/atm.2016.11.52.


Although the introduction of hepatitis B vaccine has been contributing to the reduction in the prevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) carriers worldwide, the treatment of children with chronic HBV infection is a challenge to be addressed. HBeAg seroconversion, which induces low replication of HBV, is widely accepted as the first goal of antiviral treatment in children with chronic hepatitis B. However, spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion is highly expected in children with chronic HBV infection. Therefore, the identification of children who need antiviral treatment to induce HBeAg seroconversion is essential in the management of chronic HBV infection. Guidelines and experts' opinion show how to identify children who should be treated and how to treat them. If decompensated cirrhosis is absent, interferon-alpha is the first-line antiviral treatment. Nucleos(t)ide analogues (NAs), such as lamivudine, adefovir, entecavir and tenofovir, are also available for the treatment of children, although the approval age differs among them. If decompensated cirrhosis is present, NAs are the first-line antivirals. When the emergence of drug-resistant HBV variants is taken into consideration, entecavir (approved for age 2 years or older) and tenofovir (age 12 years or older), which have high genetic barriers, will play a central role in the treatment of HBV infection. However, the optimal duration of NA treatment and adverse events of long-term NA treatment remain unclear in children. In resource-constrained countries and regions, the financial burden of visiting hospitals, receiving routine blood examination and purchasing antiviral drugs is heavy. Moreover, there is no clear evidence that the induction of HBeAg seroconversion by antiviral treatment prevents the progression of liver disease to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in children with chronic HBV infection. It is thus imperative to clarify the clinical impact of antiviral treatment in children with HBV infection.

Keywords: Seroconversion; children; hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); interferon; nucleos(t)ide analogue (NAs).

Publication types

  • Review