Background: Despite an effective vaccine, hepatitis B remains a major global health problem due to its significant morbidity and mortality. Vaccination in immunosuppressed patients such as those treated for an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be less effective. This case describes an uncommon original diagnosis of an acute hepatitis B infection occurring in a vaccinated but immunocompromised IBD patient under long-term infliximab treatment. A low anti-HBs titer and the presence of HBsAg escape mutations are possible hypotheses to explain this unexpected infection.
Case presentation: A 28-year-old Caucasian male, regularly followed-up for a Crohn's disease treated by infliximab, was regularly screened for sexually transmissible infections because of at-risk behaviors. Despite a correct immunization scheme against hepatitis B virus (HBV), an active HBV infection was diagnosed during one of those screenings. Retrospective testing of a sample collected 6 months earlier was in favor of an evolution from an acute hepatitis B toward a chronic hepatitis B. The patient has always had a low anti-HBs antibody levels (near the threshold of 10 IU/L) possibly explaining his infection. In addition, HBV sequencing revealed a genotype A2 HBV strain, carrying the sD144A substitution on the S protein, known as a potential immune escape variant. Dual therapy combining tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine, active against HBV but also efficient as an HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, was initiated. Ten months after treatment initiation, all surrogate biochemical and virological endpoints for HBV functional cure were achieved. Treatment and periodical monitoring are being maintained.
Conclusion: Emphasis should be placed on HBV screening, vaccination and regular monitoring of patients under long-term immunosuppressive therapy, particularly those with at-risk behaviors.
Keywords: Acute hepatitis; Hepatitis B; Immune escape; Immunocompromised; Infliximab; Vaccination.
© 2022. The Author(s).