Hepatitis B virus (HBV) RNA in serum is a novel biomarker that reflects cccDNA activity. We investigated whether HBV RNA can predict serological response to peginterferon (PEG-IFN) treatment. Serum HBV RNA levels were retrospectively measured at weeks 0, 12, 24 and 52 of therapy and after treatment discontinuation (week 78) in 266 HBeAg-positive chronic HBV patients who had participated in a global randomized controlled trial (HBV99-01 study). Patients received 52 weeks PEG-IFN monotherapy (n = 136) or PEG-IFN and lamivudine (n = 130). The primary end point was HBeAg loss 24 weeks after PEG-IFN discontinuation. At baseline, the mean serum level of HBV RNA was 6.8 (SD 1.2) log c/mL. HBV RNA levels declined to 4.7 (1.7) log c/mL after one year of PEG-IFN therapy alone and to 3.3 (1.2)log c/mL after combination therapy. From week 12 onward, HBV RNA level was significantly lower in patients who achieved HBeAg loss at the end of follow-up as compared to those who did not, regardless of treatment allocation (week 12:4.4 vs 5.1 log c/mL, P =.01; week 24:3.7 vs 4.9 log c/mL, P <.001). The performance of a multivariable model based on HBV RNA level was comparable at week 12 (AUC 0.68) and 24 (AUC 0.72) of therapy. HBV RNA level above 5.5 log c/mL at week 12 showed negative predictive values of 93/67/90/64% for HBV genotypes A/B/C/D for the prediction of HBeAg loss. In conclusion, HBV RNA in serum declines profoundly during PEG-IFN treatment. Early on-treatment HBV RNA level may be used to predict nonresponse.

chronic hepatitis B infection, functional cure, peginterferon treatment, serum marker, treatment response
dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13272, hdl.handle.net/1765/125619
Journal of Viral Hepatitis
Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology

van Campenhout, M.J.H, van Bömmel, F, Pfefferkorn, M. (Maria), Fischer, J, Deichsel, D. (Danilo), Boonstra, P.A, … Janssen, H.L.A. (2020). Serum hepatitis B virus RNA predicts response to peginterferon treatment in HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B. Journal of Viral Hepatitis. doi:10.1111/jvh.13272