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Zhonghua Gan Zang Bing Za Zhi. 2008 Nov;16(11):818-22.

[Hepatic steatosis: a common reason for elevated alanine aminotransferase levels in HBsAg-positive chronic hepatitis B patients with low HBV DNA loads].

[Article in Chinese]

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Department of Infectious Diseases, Hangzhou Sixth People's Hospital, Zhejiang University of Chinese Traditional Medicine, Hangzhou 310014, China.



To evaluate the causes of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level elevation in HBsAg-positive chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients with low HBV DNA loads.


One hundred nineteen HBsAg positive CHB patients with both serum HBV DNA loads less than 1000 copies/ml and ALT more than 1.25 upper limits of normal (ULN) lasting for at least 6 months were enrolled in this study. Patients co-infected with hepatitis C virus or HIV or suffering from other liver diseases were not included. HBV DNA loads were assayed by PCR. Serological biochemistry and liver biopsy histopathological changes and clinical characteristics of the patients were analyzed.


Of the 119 patients 102 were males and 17 were females. The mean age of the patients was (33.9+/-9.7) years and their body mass index (BMI) was (23.4+/-3.7) kg/m2. Mean ALT levels were (150.0+/-166.6) U/L and AST levels were (102.4+/-193.2) U/L. Liver biopsies showed hepatic steatosis in 26.9 % (32/119) of the cases, chronic hepatitis in 53.8% (64/119), non-specific changes in 12.6% (15/119), and 1 without any change. However, hepatic steatosis was more frequently seen in patients taking nucleoside analogs (56.7%), x2=10.394, Probability value less than 0.01. BMI, apolipoprotein B (APO-B), triglyceride, cholesterol and uric acid were all significantly higher in patients with hepatic steatosis than those without (t values were 5.369, 4.276, 3.216, 4.223 and 2.438 respectively, all P less than 0.05) while ALT, AST and apolipoprotein A were much lower in those with steatosis than those without (t values were -2.234, -3.877 and -2.956 respectively, all P less than 0.05). Obesity, dyslipidemia and hyperuricemia were more frequently seen in patients with steatosis than in patients without it (x2 value 3.829, 7.659, 13.389, 0.549, all P less than 0.05). The severity of inflammation and fibrosis were also more significant in patients with steatosis (x2 value 20.978, 17.550, all P less than 0.05). As compared to those patients without specific changes, serum levels of ALT, AST, GGT in patients with chronic hepatitis were obviously higher, all P less than 0.05. In contrast, there were no significant differences in mean age, BMI, male preference, obesity, diabetes, dyslipidemia or hyperuricemia, and the levels of triglyceride, cholesterol, and fasting plasma glucose between the two groups.


Our data indicate that hepatic steatosis might be a factor associated with elevated ALT levels in HBsAg-positive CHB patients with low HBV DNA loads, especially in patients treated with nucleoside analogs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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