Serum HBeAg and HBV DNA levels are not always proportional and only high levels of HBeAg most likely correlate with high levels of HBV DNA: A community-based study

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Abstract

This study aimed to investigate the correlation between quantitative hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA levels, and to determine whether semiquantitative measurement of HBeAg can indicate the extent of HBV replication in HBeAg-positive subjects in the immune tolerant phase.

A cross-sectional, community-based survey was carried out in 12 communities of 2 counties in Zhejiang Province, China. A panel of 788 HBeAg-positive subjects was divided into 4 groups according to HBV DNA level.

Groups I (n = 111), II (n = 91), III (n = 124), and IV (n = 462) had HBV DNA levels below 103 copies/mL (PCR undetectable), between 103 and 105 copies/mL (PCR detectable), between 105 and 2 × 107 copies/mL (hybridization detectable), and >2 × 107 copies/mL, respectively. The HBeAg level correlated well with the HBV DNA level (R2 = 0.658; P < .01) on a log scale. The average HBeAg level in group IV was significantly higher than those in the other 3 groups, and the best HBeAg cut-off value for differentiating group IV from the other 3 groups was 768 S/CO, with a sensitivity of 94.4% and specificity of 91.1%.

Semiquantification of HBeAg could indicate a relative HBV DNA level in HBeAg-positive subjects in the immune tolerant phase.

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