Development of a simple score based on HBeAg and ALT for selecting patients for HBV treatment in Africa

J Hepatol. 2018 Oct;69(4):776-784. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2018.05.024. Epub 2018 Jul 1.


Background & aims: To eliminate hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, it is essential to scale up antiviral treatment through decentralized services. However, access to the conventional tools to assess treatment eligibility (liver biopsy/Fibroscan®/HBV DNA) is limited and not affordable in resource-limited countries. We developed and validated a simple score to easily identify patients in need of HBV treatment in Africa.

Methods: As a reference, we used treatment eligibility determined by the European Association for the Study of the Liver based on alanine aminotransferase (ALT), liver histology and/or Fibroscan and HBV DNA. We derived a score indicating treatment eligibility by a stepwise logistic regression using a cohort of chronic HBV infection in The Gambia (n = 804). We subsequently validated the score in an external cohort of HBV-infected Africans from Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Europe (n = 327).

Results: Out of several parameters, two remained in the final model, namely HBV e antigen (HBeAg) and ALT level, constituting a simple score (treatment eligibility in Africa for the hepatitis B virus: TREAT-B). The score demonstrated a high area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (0.85, 95% CI 0.79-0.91) in the validation set. The score of 2 and above (HBeAg-positive and ALT ≥20 U/L or HBeAg-negative and ALT ≥40 U/L) had a sensitivity and specificity for treatment eligibility of 85% and 77%, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of the World Health Organization criteria based on the aspartate aminotransferase-to-platelet ratio index (APRI) and ALT were 90% and 40%, respectively.

Conclusions: A simple score based on HBeAg and ALT had a high diagnostic accuracy for the selection of patients for HBV treatment. This score could be useful in African settings.

Lay summary: Limited access to the diagnostic tools used to assess treatment eligibility (liver biopsy/Fibroscan/hepatitis B virus DNA) has been an obstacle to the scale up of hepatitis B treatment programs in low- and middle-income countries. Using the data from African patients with chronic HBV infection, we developed and validated a new simple diagnostic score for treatment eligibility, which only consists of hepatitis B virus e antigen and alanine aminotransferase level. The diagnostic accuracy of the score for selecting patients for HBV treatment was high and could be useful in African settings.

Keywords: Africa; Diagnostic score; Elimination; Hepatitis B; Patient care management; Sensitivity and specificity; Validation studies.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood*
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B e Antigens / blood*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection*
  • World Health Organization


  • Hepatitis B e Antigens
  • Alanine Transaminase