BACKGROUND & AIM:
Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) in children is a serious health problem worldwide. How to treat children with immune-tolerant chronic hepatitis B infection, commonly characterized by hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) positivity, high viral load, normal or mildly elevated alanine aminotransferase and no or minimal inflammation in liver histology, remains unresolved. This trial aims to study the benefits of antiviral therapy in children with these characteristics.
This is a pilot open-label randomized controlled study. From May 2014 to April 2015, 69 treatment-naive chronically HBV-infected children, aged 1 to 16 years, who had immune-tolerant characteristics were recruited to this trial and randomly assigned, in a 2:1 ratio, to treatment group and control group. Patients in the treatment group received either interferon-α (IFN) monotherapy or consecutively received IFN monotherapy, combination therapy of IFN and lamivudine (LAM), and LAM therapy alone. All patients were observed until week 96.
At baseline, epidemiological, biochemical, serological, virological and histological indices were consistent across the treatment and control groups. Of the 46 patients in the treatment group, 73.91% had undetectable serum HBV DNA, 32.61% achieved HBeAg seroconversion and 21.74% lost hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) at the endpoint. No LAM resistance emerged at week 96. In the control group, only one (4.35%) patient underwent spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion and had undetectable serum HBV DNA during observation, and moreover, none developed HBsAg clearance. For all patients, no serious adverse events were observed.
Antiviral treatment with a sequential combination of IFN and LAM resulted in a significant improvement in the rates of undetectable serum HBV DNA, HBeAg seroconversion and HBsAg loss in children with chronic HBV infection and immune-tolerant characteristics.
There is a lack of data regarding treatment of immune-tolerant chronic hepatitis B (CHB). It remains unresolved how children with immune-tolerant CHB should be treated. This paper reports the outcomes from a pilot open-label randomized controlled trial on antiviral therapy in children with immune-tolerant characteristics. It shows that a sequential combination of interferon-α and lamivudine was beneficial.