Background: Orthotopic liver transplantation in patients positive for hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA is associated with a high reinfection rate, even with hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) prophylaxis. Nucleoside analogues that inhibit hepatitis B replication in patients with chronic hepatitis B could prevent reinfection after transplantation. The aim of this study was to analyse the efficacy and safety of prophylaxis both before and after transplantation with the nucleoside analogue lamivudine, without HBIG, in patients undergoing liver transplantation.
Methods: 17 HBsAg-positive patients with decompensated cirrhosis and previous evidence of viral replication were enrolled. 12 were HBV-DNA-positive by a signal amplification assay. Patients were treated with oral lamivudine (100 mg daily) for at least 4 weeks before transplantation and followed up for 18-90 weeks after transplantation.
Findings: HBV DNA became undetectable in serum before transplantation in all HBV-DNA-positive patients. Four died before transplantation from complications of cirrhosis; one patient was withdrawn from the study because of a cerebrovascular accident. The remaining 12 patients underwent transplantation. Two patients died after transplantation (one at 3 days and one [suicide] at 20 weeks). HBV DNA reappeared in one patient with histological evidence of recurrent hepatitis (72 weeks). By week 24 the nine remaining patients had lost HBsAg and remained negative for HBV DNA.
Interpretation: Lamivudine treatment may prove useful in preventing recurrence of hepatitis B after liver transplantation. The effect on survival of patients after transplantation remains to be assessed.