It is well appreciated that ethnicity influences the natural history and immune responses during a chronic hepatitis B infection. In this study, we explore the effect of ethnicity and treatment cessation on Hepatitis B surface Antigen (HBsAg) seroclearance in patients with Nucleos(t)ide Analogue (NA)-induced Hepatitis B e Antigen (HBeAg) seroconversion. We performed a multi-ethnic, multicentric observational cohort study. The analyzed cohort consisted of 178 mono-infected, predominantly male (75.3%) chronic hepatitis B patients of mixed ethnicity (44.4% Asians, 48.9% Caucasians) with nucleos(t)ide analogue-induced HBeAg seroconversion. Treatment was withdrawn in 105 patients and continued in 73, leading to HBsAg loss in 14 patients off- and 16 patients on-treatment, respectively. Overall, HBsAg loss rates were not affected by treatment cessation (hazard ratio 1.45, p = 0.372), regardless of consolidation treatment duration. Caucasian ethnicity was associated with an increased chance of HBsAg loss (hazard ratio 6.70, p = 0.001), but hepatitis B virus genotype was not (p = 0.812). In conclusion, ethnicity is the most important determinant for HBsAg loss after NA-induced HBeAg seroconversion, with up to six-fold higher HBsAg loss rates in Caucasians compared to Asians, irrespective of treatment cessation and consolidation treatment duration.

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Keywords chronic hepatitis B, ethnicity, HBsAg seroclearance, treatment cessation
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Journal Viruses
Hees, S.V. (Stijn Van), Chi, H, Hansen, B.E, Bourgeois, S, Vlierberghe, H.V. (Hans Van), Sersté, T, … Vanwolleghem, T. (2019). Caucasian Ethnicity, but Not Treatment Cessation is Associated with HBsAg Loss Following Nucleos(t)ide Analogue-Induced HBeAg Seroconversion. Viruses, 11(8). doi:10.3390/v11080687