A study was conducted during a 1 year follow-up to characterize the viral kinetics in hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive chronic hepatitis B and to develop a model of predicting the probability of spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion. Fifty-seven patients with HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B were enrolled with monthly follow-ups from three Phase III clinical trial placebo groups. According to serial viral loads, 30 patients (52.6%) with the stationary pattern maintained stable HBV DNA levels with fluctuations of less than 1.5 log copies/ml. Twenty patients (35.1%) with the declining pattern exhibited a spontaneous decline of more than 1.5 log copies/ml without a following rebound of at least 1.5 log copies/ml. The remaining seven patients (12.3%) had the wavering pattern. Both declining and wavering patterns, when compared with the stationary pattern, had significantly higher hepatic necroinflammation in terms of ALT and Knodell scores at the baseline and peak ALT levels during the follow-up period. The declining pattern had a significantly better clinical outcome in terms of the lowest final HBV DNA and a reduction in the necroinflammatory score after 1 year. Furthermore, the declining pattern had a favorable HBeAg seroconversion rate (40%) compared with the wavering (14.3%) and stationary patterns (0%). A regression equation, incorporating simultaneous serum bilirubin, ALT, and HBV DNA levels, predicted the probability of HBeAg seroconversion with a sensitivity of 76.8% and a specificity of 74.7%. In conclusion, different viral kinetic patterns in patients with chronic hepatitis B implicate distinct clinical significance and immunologic perspective.
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