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Clinical course of chronic hepatitis B patients who were off-treated after lamivudine treatment: analysis of 138 consecutive patients

Young-Joo Jin, Kang Mo Kim*, Dong-jun Yoo, Ju Hyun Shim, Han Chu Lee, Young-Hwa Chung, Yung Sang Lee and Dong Jin Suh

Author Affiliations

Department of Internal Medicine, Asan Liver Center, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, 88, Olympic-ro 43-gil, Songpa-gu, Seoul, 138-736, South Korea

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Virology Journal 2012, 9:239  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-9-239

Published: 18 October 2012



Little is known about the long-term outcome of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients who discontinued antiviral therapy. We intended to analyze the long-term outcome of CHB patients who discontinued lamivudine therapy and to evaluate predictors for post-treatment outcome.


From 2007 to 2008, 138 lamivudine off-treated CHB patients with alanine aminotransferase normalization were consecutively enrolled. Post-treatment virologic relapse, biochemical breakthrough, hepatitis flare, and retreatment results were retrospectively analyzed.


Among 138 patients, 102 were initially HBeAg-positive at the start of lamivudine treatment. Virologic relapse, biochemical breakthrough, and hepatitis flare were observed in 45.2, 52.9, and 12.7% of HBeAg-positive and 29.4, 30.6, and 8.3% of HBeAg-negative patients during the median follow-up of 28 and 30 months, respectively. The cumulative virologic relapse and biochemical breakthrough rates were significantly lower in patients with HBV DNA <50 copies/mL than 50-104 copies/mL at lamivudine cessation. Hepatitis flare was observed in 4.8 and 11.8% of HBeAg-positive and HBeAg-negative patients with HBV DNA <50copies/mL, respectively. Thirty-eight among 138 patients received retreatment and most of them achieved biochemical (37/38) and virologic response (35/38) within 1 year of retreatment. Undetectable serum HBV DNA (<50 copies/mL) and young age at lamivudine cessation were inversely associated with virologic relapse. Undetectable HBV DNA at cessation, female, and initial HBeAg-negative were inversely associated with biochemical breakthrough.


Post-treatment virologic relapse and biochemical breakthrough incidence were low in patients who achieved undetectable viral titer at lamivudine cessation. Retreatment after biochemical breakthrough or virologic relapse was safe and effective. Intermittent antiviral therapy might be cautiously considered in appropriately selected CHB patients.

Chronic hepatitis B; Lamivudine cessation; Virologic relapse; Biochemical breakthrough; Hepatitis flare