Hepatitis B virus-associated glomerulonephritis in HBsAg serological-negative patients

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The main objective of this study is to report the clinical and pathological characteristics of hepatitis B virus (HBV)-associated glomerulonephritis (HBV-GN) in serum hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-negative patients in China. HBV-GN is caused by the HBV’s attack on the kidney tissues, but definitive diagnostic criteria are still lacking. The diagnostic criteria used in China require HBsAg positivity in the serum, but research on occult HBV infection has shown that HBV infection is also found in serum HBsAg-negative patients. Clinical and pathological characterization of HBV-GN in serum HBsAg-negative patients is required.

Materials and methods

Serologic and clinical findings and pathological characteristics of renal tissues in 18 HBV-GN patients (11 men and seven women) with serum HBsAg negativity were analyzed retrospectively. Thirty-three HBV-GN patients with serum HBsAg positivity and 59 patients with membranous nephropathy (MN) without any HBV infection markers in serum and renal tissues during the same period were included as controls.


Among the 18 HBsAg-negative patients with GN, 12 had HBsAb positivity in their sera. None of the patients was positive for serum HBeAg. Proteinuria was the major clinical manifestation and the renal histopathology was characterized as MN. Immune fluorescence deposits in renal tissues consisted mainly of HBsAg. The degree of renal injury and the decrease in the C3 level were less than those in HBsAg-positive patients and idiopathic membranous nephropathy patients.


We propose to use the HBV marker in renal tissues as a new diagnostic criterion for HBV-GN. If MN patients have HBV marker positivity in renal tissues, HBV-GN can be diagnosed even without HBsAg in the serum. This would improve the diagnostic accuracy and potential treatment efficiency.

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