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Neth J Med. 2006 Jun;64(6):175-85.

Antiviral treatment for chronic hepatitis B virus infection--immune modulation or viral suppression?

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (CA 326), Erasmus Medical Centre, University Medical Centre Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


The availability of nucleoside analogues has broadened treatment options for chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV ) infection. Registered treatment for chronic hepatitis B currently consists of (pegylated) interferon, lamivudine and adefovir, while entecavir is expected to be licensed in the short term. Treatment is generally recommended for patients with high serum HBV DNA and elevated ALAT, indicating the host's immune response against HBV. Induction of an HBV -specific immune response seems crucial for persistent control of HBV infection. Currently available treatment strategies can be differentiated into those that provide sustained off-treatment response and those that provide therapy maintained response. A finite treatment course with immunomodulatory agents (interferon-based therapy) results in sustained response in about one third of patients, while nucleoside analogue treatment generally requires indefinite therapy without a clear stopping point. Since nucleoside analogues are well tolerated, prolonged therapy is feasible, but a major drawback is the considerable risk of developing antiviral resistance, which occurs most frequently in lamivudine treated patients and to a lesser extent during adefovir or entecavir therapy. In our opinion, treatment with peginterferon should therefore be considered first-line therapy in eligible patients with a high likelihood of response based on serum HBV DNA, ALAT and HBV genotype. Patients not responding to PEG-IF N therapy or not eligible for peginterferon therapy should be treated with nucleos(t)ide analogues.

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