Role of quantitative hepatitis B surface antigen in predicting inactive carriers and HBsAg seroclearance in HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis B patients

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To evaluate quantitative hepatitis B surface antigen (qHBsAg) as a diagnostic marker for inactive carriers (ICs) and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) seroclearance in hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-negative chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients. We retrospectively studied 300 HBeAg-negative CHB patients with initial serum hepatitis B virus (HBV) Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) levels <2000 IU/mL. Serum HBV DNA and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels were monitored every 6 months for 24 months. ICs were identified as having persistent HBV DNA levels <2000 IU/mL and normal ALT levels, whereas active carriers (ACs) were identified as having HBV DNA levels ≥2000 IU/mL, with or without elevated ALT levels. The serum qHBsAg level was defined at baseline and evaluated as a diagnostic predictor using a receiver-operating characteristic curve. The study group comprised 134 men and 166 women with a median age of 41.5 years. At baseline, 200 ICs displayed lower levels of qHBsAg (1492 IU/mL) compared with 100 ACs (2936 IU/mL) (P = 0.005). The qHBsAg level was independently associated with the IC state and HBsAg seroclearance. Baseline qHBsAg levels <1000 IU/mL and HBV DNA levels <2000 IU/mL, when detected simultaneously, allowed for identification of ICs with 41% sensitivity and 72% specificity. Fifteen patients (5%) displayed HBsAg seroclearance after 24 months. A qHBsAg cutoff value of <50 IU/mL provided 100% sensitivity and 92% specificity in predicting HBsAg seroclearance. The qHBsAg level at a single timepoint among HBeAg-negative CHB patients with low HBV DNA levels at baseline was not a predictive marker for ICs; however, it accurately predicted spontaneous HBsAg seroclearance at 24 months.

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