Baseline and kinetics of serum hepatitis B virus RNA predict response to pegylated interferon-based therapy in patients with hepatitis B e antigen-negative chronic hepatitis B.
Limothai U., Chuaypen N., Poovorawan K., Chotiyaputta W., Tanwandee T., Poovorawan Y., Tangkijvanich P.
Serum hepatitis B virus (HBV) RNA has emerged as a novel biomarker of treatment response. This study aimed to investigate the role of this marker in predicting long-term outcome of patients with hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-negative chronic hepatitis B (CHB) receiving pegylated interferon (PEG-IFN)-based therapy. Serial serum samples from 91 patients with HBeAg-negative CHB previously treated with PEG-IFN alone or combined with entecavir in a randomized trial were retrospectively analysed. HBV RNA quantification was examined by droplet digital PCR. At the end of 3 years post-treatment follow-up, maintained virological response (MVR, HBV DNA 10 copies/mL) had a positive predictive value (PPV) and a negative predictive value in predicting MVR of 80.8% and 80.0%, respectively. At the same cut-off value, PPV and NPV for predicting HBsAg clearance were 30.8% and 95.4%, respectively. At week 12 during therapy, HBV RNA level ≥ 2 log10 copies/mL displayed high NPVs of achieving MVR and HBsAg clearance (95% and 100%, respectively). In conclusion, the measurement of HBV RNA prior to PEG-IFN-based therapy could identify patients with high probability of MVR. In addition, HBV RNA kinetics may serve as a promising "stopping rule" in patients infected with HBV genotypes B or C.