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Cytokine. 2009 Sep;47(3):194-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cyto.2009.06.005. Epub 2009 Jul 21.

Cytokine expression during chronic versus occult hepatitis B virus infection in HIV co-infected individuals.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, OH 45267, USA.


Chronic hepatitis B virus infection is characterized by persistent detectable levels of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and HBV DNA in the serum. In contrast, HBsAg is not detectable during occult HBV infection, despite the presence of HBV DNA. An altered host immune response could play a role in the development of occult HBV infection; however, potential differences in immune responses among chronic and occult HBV-infected patients have not been evaluated in vivo. In the current study, we evaluated serum levels of regulatory, apoptotic, and fibrotic/anti-fibrotic cytokines/markers as indicators of immune responses in 25 chronic and 12 occult HBV-infected patients. More than half of the patients in both chronic and occult HBV infection groups had IL-2, IL-4, IL-13, and IFN-gamma levels below detectable limits. In contrast, most patients had detectable levels of IL-8, IL-10, IP-10, sFas, sFasL, and TGF-beta1. Of these, only sFas was significantly different between the two groups, with lower levels observed during occult compared to chronic HBV infection (p=0.01). As a surrogate marker of apoptotic inhibition, decreased sFas during occult HBV infection suggests that apoptosis occurs at different rates in occult compared to chronic HBV infection and therefore, may contribute to persistence of occult HBV infection.

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