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J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Feb 1;68(2):123-7. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000000415.

HIV through the looking glass: insights derived from Hepatitis B.

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*Liver Diseases Branch, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD; †Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD; ‡National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD; §Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD; and ‖National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.



Although higher levels of hepatitis B virus (HBV) replication in HIV-HBV co-infection may relate to liver disease progression, this has not been completely elucidated. We used expression of hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg) in liver biopsies from HIV-HBV co-infected and HBV mono-infected patients as a marker for HBV replication, and related these findings to clinical and histological parameters.


Data from 244 HBV patients were compared with 34 HIV-HBV patients. Liver biopsies were scored for inflammation, fibrosis, HBcAg, and hepatitis B surface antigen. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed.


HBcAg, but not hepatitis B surface antigen, staining was stronger in HIV co-infected than in HBV mono-infected. Co-infected and HBV mono-infected had similar alanine aminotransferase, inflammatory and fibrosis scores, and hepatitis B e antigen status. HBcAg staining correlated with HIV after correcting for HBV DNA and hepatitis B e antigen. CD4 counts and HIV RNA level did not correlate with intensity of HBcAg staining. HBV DNA levels were higher in HIV co-infected and correlated with HBcAg staining.


By looking at HBcAg as a reflection of HBV replication in HIV-HBV co-infected with controlled HIV, our findings suggest that these patients may have subtle immune function defects, which could lead to adverse liver disease outcomes.

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