Background/aims: This study aimed to evaluate the usefulness of quantifying HBV-DNA amplified by polymerase chain reaction in chronic hepatitis B infection.
Methods: Serum samples were obtained from 32 asymptomatic HBV carriers and 99 chronic hepatitis B patients (62 positive for anti-HBe and 37 positive for HBeAg). In addition, serial serum samples were analyzed from 15 HBeAg positive patients undergoing antiviral therapy and 17 anti-HBe positive patients with precore mutation. HBV-DNA quantification was carried out using an enzyme immunoassay with an HBV-DNA plasma standard.
Results: The digoxigenin-incorporated polymerase chain reaction method detected HBV-DNA in 34.3% of the asymptomatic HBV carriers with a median HBV-DNA concentration of about 0.18 x 10(5) mol/ml (range 0.08-0.4), in 87% of the anti-HBe positive chronic hepatitis cases with a range of 0.2 to > 2 x 10(5) mol/ml and in 100% of the HBeAg positive patients, with a value in all cases over 2 x 10(5) mol/ml. We observed that after treatment, HBV-DNA tested negative in only two of the eight HBeAg positive chronic hepatitis patients who seroconverted to anti-HBe, and was positive in the seven remaining, with a median HBV-DNA value of about 0.2 x 10(5) mol/ml (0.09-0.4). In the precore mutants HBV-DNA values ranged from 0.2 to > 2 x 10(5) mol/ml.
Conclusions: Polymerase chain reaction HBV-DNA quantification is a sensitive method for managing chronic hepatitis B patients, especially those with low viremia, and may be a valuable tool for evaluating the efficacy of antiviral therapy.