Background: We studied whether hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)/anti-HBs immune complex levels in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients receiving antiviral therapy could be used as a response marker at baseline (BL) or early during treatment to predict treatment outcome. Methods: An experimental array-based assay (immunological multi-parameter chip technology [IMPACT]; Roche Diagnostics, Penzberg, Germany) served to determine HBsAg, anti-HBs and complex levels. We tested a panel of serum samples of 40 hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive and 44 HBeAg-negative patients who received pegylated interferon and adefovir for 48 weeks. Results: HBsAg loss occurred in 4 of 40 HBeAg-positive and 4 of 44 HBeAg-negative patients. A total of 14 of 40 HBeAg-positive patients lost HBeAg and 12 of them formed anti-HBe. At BL, complexes were present in 83 (99%) patients, whereas free anti-HBs levels were detectable in 5 patients. Complex levels at BL and week 12 were higher in HBeAg-positive patients with HBeAg loss, compared to patients who retained HBeAg (P=0.002 and P=0.005, respectively). Receiver operating characteristic analysis for HBeAg loss in HBeAg-positive patients at BL and week 12 showed area-under-the-curve values of 0.79 (P=0.002) and 0.82 (P=0.003) for complex levels. We found no correlation in either HBeAg-positive or -negative patients between complex levels and HBsAg loss. Conclusions: We demonstrated for the first time that before and during treatment HBsAg/anti-HBs immune complex levels can predict HBeAg loss in HBeAg-positive CHB patients treated with pegylated interferon and adefovir. Complexes were present in almost all patients at BL and were higher in patients who lost HBeAg. In conclusion, determining HBsAg/anti-HBs immune complex levels before and early during treatment could aid in selecting CHB patients with an optimal chance to achieve HBeAg loss.

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Journal Antiviral Therapy
de Niet, A, Jansen, L, Zaaijer, H, Klause, U, Takkenberg, J.J.M, Janssen, H.L.A, … Reesink, H.W. (2014). Experimental HBsAg/anti-HBs complex assay for prediction of HBeAg loss in chronic hepatitis B patients treated with pegylated interferon and adefovir. Antiviral Therapy, 19(3), 259–267. doi:10.3851/IMP2707