The hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg) is an important target for antiviral response in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients. However, the correlation between HBcAg in the hepatocyte nucleus and nucleos(t)ide analogue (NA) therapeutic response is unclear. We sought to evaluate the role of HBcAg by analysing liver biopsies for viral response in NA‐naïve hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) positive (+) CHB patients via immunohistochemistry (IHC). A total of 48 HBcAg‐negative (−) patients and 48 HBcAg (+) patients with matching baseline characteristics were retrospectively analysed for up to 288 weeks. Virological response (VR) rates of patients in the HBcAg (−) group were significantly higher at week 48 and 96 than the HBcAg (+) group (77.1% versus 45.8% at week 48, respectively, P = 0.002 and 95.3% versus 83.3% at week 96, respectively, P = 0.045). The serological negative conversion rate of HBeAg was significantly higher in the HBcAg (−) than in the HBcAg (+) group from week 96 to 288 (35.4 % versus 14.6% at week 96, respectively, P = 0.018; 60.4% versus 14.6%, respectively, P < 0.001 at week 144; 72.9% versus 35.4%, respectively, P < 0.001 at week 288). The cumulative frequencies of VR and lack of HBeAg were higher in the HBcAg (−) group (both P < 0.05). Binary logistic regression analysis showed that HBcAg (−) was the predictor for the lack of HBeAg (OR 4.482, 95% CI: 1.58–12.68). In summary, the absence of HBcAg in the hepatocyte nucleus could be an independent predictor for HBeAg seroconversion rates during NA‐naïve treatment in HBeAg (+) CHB patients.
Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ; ;
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