The effect of interferon (IFN) on hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-negative chronic hepatitis B (CHB) has not been fully investigated in Chinese patients. We enrolled 58 HBeAg-negative CHB Chinese patients with hepatitis B viremia in Taiwan to evaluate the response to IFN. 30 patients received recombinant IFN 5 million units 3 times weekly for 6-10 months, and 28 patients who refused IFN treatment served as controls. Rates of virological response and biochemical response were higher in the treated group at the end of treatment (57% vs 18%, P = 0.006, and 73% vs 29%, P = 0.002, respectively). Both effects were superior in the treated group at 6 months after IFN withdrawal (virological: 30% vs 7%, P = 0.06; biochemical: 47% vs 7%, P = 0.002). Improvement of liver histological activities with persistently biochemical response was found in 65% of the treated patients. After a mean of 32 months' follow-up, virological response was rarely maintained (17% vs 4%, P = 0.228) but biochemical response was better in the treated group (27% vs 4%, P = 0.039). None of the treated patients but five controls developed severe complications of CHB during the follow-up period. A larger total IFN dosage or a younger age (≤ 40 years) were associated with 'sustained' virological response. Younger age and higher baseline alanine transaminase values (≥ 120 Ul-1) were related to 'sustained' biochemical response.
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