Publications by authors named "Harry L A Janssen"

396 Publications

Effects of on-treatment ALT flares on serum HBsAg and HBV RNA in patients with chronic HBV infection.

J Viral Hepat 2021 Sep 12. Epub 2021 Sep 12.

Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada.

As pegylated interferon-alpha (PEG-IFN-α) is increasingly used in combination regimens of novel drugs, we aimed to characterize ALT flares and their relationship with serum HBsAg and HBV RNA kinetics in a large, combined cohort of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients on PEG-IFN-α-based therapy. In this post hoc analysis of four international randomized trials, 269/130/124/128 patients on PEG-IFN-α monotherapy, PEG-IFN-α plus nucleos(t)ide analogue (NA) de novo combination, PEG-IFN-α add-on to NA, or NA monotherapy were included, respectively. A flare was defined as an episode of ALT ≥5×ULN. The association between flares and HBsAg and HBV RNA changes were examined. On-treatment flares occurred in 83/651 (13%) patients (median timing/magnitude: week 8 [IQR 4-12], 7.6×ULN [IQR 6.2-10.5]). Flare patients were more often Caucasians with genotype A/D and had higher baseline ALT, HBV DNA, HBV RNA, and HBsAg levels than the no-flare group. More flares were observed on PEG-IFN-α monotherapy (18%) and PEG-IFN+NA de novo combination (24%) versus PEG-IFN-α add-on (2%) or NA monotherapy (1%) (P<0.001). On-treatment flares were significantly and independently associated with HBsAg and HBV RNA decline ≥1 log at the final visit; declines started shortly before the flare, progressing toward 24 weeks thereafter. On-treatment flares were seen in 16/22 (73%) patients who achieved HBsAg loss. In conclusion, ALT flares during PEG-IFN-α treatment are associated with subsequent HBsAg and HBV RNA decline and predict subsequent HBsAg loss. Flares rarely occurred during PEG-IFN-α add-on therapy and associated with low HBsAg loss rates. Combination regimens targeting the window of heightened response could be promising.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13613DOI Listing
September 2021

Editorial: only steps away from primetime? Hepatitis B virus RNA as a routine marker to guide HBV treatment decisions-authors' reply.

Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2021 10;54(7):972-973

State Key Laboratory of Organ Failure Research, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Viral Hepatitis Research, Department of Infectious Diseases, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/apt.16570DOI Listing
October 2021

Mean HBsAg decline at week 24 of PEG-IFN-based treatment predicts subsequent rate of HBsAg clearance - suggesting a valuable endpoint for early development HBV trials.

J Viral Hepat 2021 Aug 26. Epub 2021 Aug 26.

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Earlier identification of potentially efficacious treatments in early development trials requires on-treatment response markers. We hypothesized that mean week 12 or 24 HBsAg decline could be a useful marker for subsequent off-treatment sustained HBsAg clearance at the treatment arm level in HBV trials. We used individual patient data from the studies HBV 9901 (peginterferon [PEG-IFN] versus PEG-IFN+lamivudine for HBeAg-positive CHB), PARC (PEG-IFN±ribavirin for HBeAg-negative CHB) and published data from 0149 (PEG-IFN±tenofovir for HBeAg-positive and HBeAg-negative CHB) and LIRA-B (PEG-IFN for HBeAg-positive CHB) to define the relationship between mean week HBsAg decline and HBsAg loss at 6 months post-treatment. A within-study comparison of HBsAg decline at weeks 12 and 24 between patients with or without HBsAg clearance was used to make projections beyond the observed HBsAg data. Across trials, a more pronounced mean HBsAg decline at week 24 was associated with higher rates of subsequent HBsAg loss. Mean HBsAg decline data at week 24 for patients with or without HBsAg clearance from HBV 9901 (4.3 vs 0.5), PARC (4.8 vs 0.3) and 0149 (PEG-IFN+TDF arm; 4.6 vs 0.6) were used to extrapolate this relationship beyond observed rates of HBsAg. An additional mean 1 log decline at week 24 versus a comparator arm is expected to translate into a 20%-30% increase in subsequent HBsAg loss during off-treatment follow-up. Observations were similar for week 12 data, but the relationship was less strong. Mean week 24 HBsAg decline predicts subsequent HBsAg loss and could be a valuable and useful early endpoint in HBV-treatment trials.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13599DOI Listing
August 2021

Hepatitis B e antigen loss in adults and children with chronic hepatitis B living in North America: A prospective cohort study.

J Viral Hepat 2021 Aug 6. Epub 2021 Aug 6.

Saint Louis University Liver Center, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO, USA.

Hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) is a soluble viral protein in plasma of patients with hepatitis B virus infection. HBeAg loss is an important first stage of viral antigen clearance. We determined the rate and predictors of HBeAg loss in a North American cohort with chronic hepatitis B viral infection (CHB). Among children and adults with CHB and without HIV, HCV or HDV co-infection enrolled in the Hepatitis B Research Network prospective cohort studies, 819 were HBeAg positive at their first assessment (treatment naïve or >24 weeks since treatment). Of these, 577 (200 children, 377 adults) were followed every 24-48 weeks. HBeAg loss was defined as first HBeAg-negative value; sustained HBeAg loss was defined as ≥2 consecutive HBeAg-negative values ≥24 weeks apart. During a median follow-up of 1.8 years, 164 participants experienced HBeAg loss, a rate of 11.4 (95% CI, 9.8-13.3) per 100 person-years. After adjustment for confounders, HBeAg loss rate was significantly higher in males than females, in older than younger individuals, in Whites or Blacks than Asians, in those with genotype A2 or B versus C, and in those with basal core promoter/pre-core mutations versus wild type. Additionally, during follow-up, an ALT flare and a lower quantitative HBsAg, quantitative HBeAg or HBV DNA level predicted higher rates of HBeAg loss. The majority (88%) with HBeAg loss had sustained HBeAg loss. In conclusion, a number of specific demographic, clinical and viral characteristics impacted rate of HBeAg loss and may prove useful in design and interpretation of future therapeutic studies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13591DOI Listing
August 2021

Treatment Algorithm for Managing Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection in the United States: 2021 Update.

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021 Jul 27. Epub 2021 Jul 27.

Division of Gastroenterology, NYU Langone Health, New York, New York.

Background And Aims: Chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection remains the most frequent etiology of hepatocellular carcinoma globally as well as a major cause of cirrhosis. Despite vaccination, substantial numbers of persons have already been infected with hepatitis B virus and remain at risk of progressive liver disease.

Methods: In 2004, a CHB management algorithm was developed by a panel of North American hepatologists which was subsequently updated in 2006, 2008, and 2015. Since the most recent version, several developments have altered the management of CHB. Tenofovir alafenamide, with a more favorable safety profile than tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, has been introduced as an initial antiviral choice as well as an alternative for long-term therapy. Quantitation of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is becoming more widely available in clinical practice, with implications for monitoring response to treatment. Additionally, there has been a shift in how the natural history of CHB is perceived as newer evidence has challenged the concept that during the immunotolerant phase of infection disease progression is not a concern. Finally, recent analyses indicate that in the United States, the average age of CHB patients has increased implying that the presence of comorbidities including metabolic liver disease increasing use of biologics associated with aging will increasingly affect disease management.

Results: This updated algorithm is intended to serve as a guide to manage CHB while new antiviral strategies are developed.

Conclusions: Recommendations have been based on evidence from the scientific literature, when possible, as well as clinical experience and consensus expert opinion. Points of continued debate and areas of research need are also described.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2021.07.036DOI Listing
July 2021

The Inflammatory Cytokine Profile Associated with Liver Damage is Broader and Stronger in Chronic Hepatitis B Patients Compared to Acute Hepatitis B Patients.

J Infect Dis 2021 Jul 21. Epub 2021 Jul 21.

Department of Immunology, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Liver damage in hepatitis B is immune driven and correlates with inflammatory markers in patient serum. There is no comparison of these markers to determine if inflammatory profiles are distinct to different types of liver damage across patients at different stages of disease. We measured 25 inflammatory markers in acute hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis B patients with HBeAg seroconversion and chronic patients stopping nucleoside analogue therapy. Myeloid markers dominated the inflammatory profile in all stages of hepatitis B. More inflammatory markers were detectable in chronic patients, including elevated concentrations of cytotoxic effectors Fas ligand, TRAIL and TNF-α.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiab373DOI Listing
July 2021

Serum hepatitis B virus RNA level is associated with biochemical relapse in patients with chronic hepatitis B infection who discontinue nucleos(t)ide analogue treatment.

Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2021 09 18;54(5):709-714. Epub 2021 Jul 18.

State Key Laboratory of Organ Failure Research, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Viral Hepatitis Research, Department of Infectious Diseases, Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China.

Background: Nucleos(t)ide analogue (NA) discontinuation may be attempted in carefully selected patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection.

Aim: To investigate whether a novel serum marker of quantitative hepatitis B virus (HBV) RNA levels could predict biochemical relapse after NA discontinuation.

Methods: We prospepctively followed non-cirrhotic Asian patients with CHB who stopped NA according to pre-specified stopping criteria. The primary endpoint was biochemical relapse (HBV DNA >2000 IU/mL and alanine transaminase >2x upper limit of normal), which were also the re-treatment criteria.

Results: Biochemical relapse occurred in 50 patients (48.3% at year 6). Multivariable analysis showed that higher HBV RNA levels (HR 1.34; P < 0.001) at the time of NA discontinuation were associated with increased biochemical relapse risk. The area under the curve of HBV RNA at the time of NA discontinuation for the incidence of biochemical relapse was 0.760 at 6 years. Six years after treatment discontinuation, all patients with HBV RNA levels ≥20 000 copies/mL at the end of treatment developed a biochemical relapse compared with 23.8% of patients with HBV RNA levels<1000 copies/mL (P < 0.001). More patients with HBV RNA levels <1000 copies/mL at end of treatment achieved loss of hepatitis B surface antigen than patients with higher levels (30.9% vs 1.6%; P = 0.027).

Conclusions: The HBV RNA level at end of treatment predicted biochemical relapse after treatment discontinuation and may be used to guide decisions on treatment discontinuation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/apt.16538DOI Listing
September 2021

Internal medicine hospitalisations and liver disease: a comparative disease burden analysis of a multicentre cohort.

Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2021 09 28;54(5):689-698. Epub 2021 Jun 28.

Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Background: Liver disease is an increasing burden on population health globally.

Aims: To characterise burden of liver disease among general internal medicine inpatients at seven Toronto-area hospitals and compare it to other common medical conditions.

Methods: Data from April 2010 to October 2017 were obtained from hospitals participating in the GEMINI collaborative. Using these cohort data from hospital information systems linked to administrative data, we defined liver disease admissions using most responsible discharge diagnoses categorised according to international classification of diseases, 10th Revision-enhanced Canadian version (ICD-10-CA). We identified admissions for heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia as comparators. We calculated standardised mortality ratios (SMRs) as the ratio of observed to expected deaths.

Results: Among 239 018 discharges, liver disease accounted for 1.7% of most responsible discharge diagnoses. Liver disease was associated with marked premature mortality, with SMR of 8.84 (95% CI 8.06-9.67) compared to 1.06 (95% CI 0.99-1.12) for heart failure, 1.05 (95% CI 0.96-1.15) for COPD and 1.28 (95% CI 1.20-1.37) for pneumonia. The majority of deaths were among patients younger than 65 years (57.7%) compared to 3.3% in heart failure, 5.6% in COPD and 10.7% in pneumonia. Liver disease patients presented with worse Laboratory-Based Acute Physiology Scores, were more frequently admitted to the intensive care unit (14.4%), incurred higher average total costs (median $6723 CAD), had higher in-hospital mortality (11.4%), and were more likely to be a readmission from 30 days prior (19.8%). Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease admissions increased from 120 in 2011-2012 to 215 in 2016-2017 (P < 0.01).

Conclusion: In Canada's largest urban centre, liver disease admissions resulted in premature morbidity and mortality with higher resource use compared to common cardio-respiratory conditions. Re-evaluation of approaches to caring for inpatients with liver disease is timely and justified.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/apt.16488DOI Listing
September 2021

Comparison of HBV RNA and Hepatitis B Core Related Antigen With Conventional HBV Markers Among Untreated Adults With Chronic Hepatitis B in North America.

Hepatology 2021 Jun 16. Epub 2021 Jun 16.

Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.

Background And Aims: The clinical utility of two biomarkers, hepatitis B virus (HBV) RNA and hepatitis B core-related antigen (HBcrAg), as compared to conventional markers of HBV replication and disease activity, is unclear.

Approach And Results: Untreated participants in the North American Hepatitis B Research Network Adult Cohort Study were categorized by chronic hepatitis B (CHB) phases based on HBsAg and HBeAg status and HBV DNA and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels. HBV RNA and HBcrAg were measured (Abbott HBV pgRNA Research Assay and Fujirebio Lumipulse Immunoassay, respectively), and cross-sectional associations with conventional CHB markers were tested. Among 1,409 participants across all CHB phases, median HBV DNA was 3.8 log IU/mL and ALT was 34 U/L. HBV RNA was quantifiable in 99% of HBeAg and 58% of HBeAg participants; HBcrAg was quantifiable in 20% of HBeAg (above linear range in the other 80%) and 51% of HBeAg participants. Both markers differed across CHB phases (P < 0.001), with higher levels in the HBeAg and HBeAg immune active phases. HBV RNA and HBcrAg correlated moderately strongly with HBV DNA in both HBeAg and HBeAg phases (HBV RNA: e ρ = 0.84; e ρ = 0.78; HBcrAg: e ρ = 0.66; e ρ = 0.56; P for all, <0.001), but with HBsAg levels among HBeAg phases only (HBV RNA: e ρ = 0.71; P < 0.001; e ρ = 0.18; P = 0.56; HBcrAg: e ρ = 0.51; P < 0.001; e ρ = 0.27; P < 0.001). Associations of higher HBV RNA and HBcrAg levels with higher ALT, APRI, and Fibrosis-4 levels were consistent in HBeAg , but not HBeAg , phases.

Conclusions: Despite clear relationships between HBV RNA and HBcrAg levels and CHB phases, these markers have limited additional value in differentiating CHB phases because of their strong association with HBV DNA and, to a lesser extent, with clinical disease indicators.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.32018DOI Listing
June 2021

Letter to the Editor: Entecavir Treatment Restores the Anti-HBV Immune response?

Hepatology 2021 Jun 9. Epub 2021 Jun 9.

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.32003DOI Listing
June 2021

Predictive performance of newer Asian hepatocellular carcinoma risk scores in treated Caucasians with chronic hepatitis B.

JHEP Rep 2021 Jun 20;3(3):100290. Epub 2021 Apr 20.

Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, CRC "A. M. and A. Migliavacca" Center for Liver Disease, Foundation IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy.

Background & Aims: Recently, several risk scores for prediction of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) were developed in cohorts of treated Asian patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB), but they have not been assessed in non-Asian patients. We evaluated the predictability and comparative utility of our PAGE-B and recent Asian HCC risk scores in nucleos(t)ide analogue (NA)-treated adult Caucasian patients with CHB, with or without well-documented compensated cirrhosis but not previous diagnosis of HCC.

Methods: We included 1,951 patients treated with entecavir/tenofovir and followed up for a median of 7.6 years. The c-statistic was used to estimate the predictability of PAGE-B, HCC-Rescue, CAMD, mPAGE-B, and AASL score for HCC development within 5 or 10 years. The low- and high-risk group cut-offs were used for estimation of negative (NPV) and positive predictive values (PPV), respectively.

Results: HCC developed in 103/1,951 (5.3%) patients during the first 5 years and in another 39/1,428 (2.7%) patients between years 5 and 10. The 3-, 5-, and 10-year cumulative HCC rates were 3.3%, 5.9%, and 9.6%, respectively. All scores offered good 5- and 10-year HCC prediction (c-statistic: 0.78-0.82). NPVs were always >99% (99.3-100%), whereas PPV ranged between 13% and 24%.

Conclusions: In NA-treated Caucasian patients with CHB including compensated cirrhosis, HCC risk scores developed in NA-treated Asian patients offer good 5- and 10-year HCC predictability, similar to that of PAGE-B. PAGE-B and mPAGE-B scores are simpler in clinical practice, as they do not require an accurate diagnosis of cirrhosis, but the addition of albumin in mPAGE-B score does not seem to offer an advantage in patients with well compensated liver disease.

Lay Summary: Several risk scores for prediction of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) were recently developed in cohorts of treated Asian patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB). In Caucasian patients with CHB treated with oral antivirals, newer Asian HCC risk scores offer good 5- and 10-year HCC predictability, similar to that of PAGE-B. For clinical practice, PAGE-B and mPAGE-B scores are simpler, as they do not require an accurate diagnosis of cirrhosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhepr.2021.100290DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8144729PMC
June 2021

Effectiveness and Renal Safety of Tenofovir Alafenamide Fumarate among Chronic Hepatitis B Patients: Real-World Study.

J Viral Hepat 2021 Jun 1;28(6):942-950. Epub 2021 Apr 1.

Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada.

Tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF) has high plasma stability resulting in fewer renal adverse events compared to tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients. We aimed to study the effectiveness and renal safety of TAF in a real-world setting, in patients with or without compromised kidney function. CHB patients (Nucleos(t)ide Analogue [NA]-naïve or experienced) who received TAF >1 year from 11 academic institutions as part of the Canadian Hepatitis B Network (CanHepB) were included. Kidney function was measured by estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) as per Cockcroft-Gault. Patients were followed for up to 160 weeks. Of 176 patients receiving TAF, 143 switched from NA (88% TDF), and 33(19%) were NA naïve. Majority of NA-naïve patients (75%) achieved undetectable HBV DNA after one year of TAF treatment. Majority of patients with eGFR <60 mL/min who had renal deterioration during TDF (76%) reversed to eGFR increase after one year of TAF (p=0.009). Among patients with stage 2 chronic kidney disease (CKD) (eGFR 60-89), the estimated eGFR decline during TDF was halted after switching to TAF (p=0.09). NA-experienced patients with abnormal ALT before TAF showed a significant decline after switching to TAF: -0.005 [-0.006 - -0.004] log ULN U/L/month, p<0.001). In CHB patients, TAF was safe, well-tolerated and effective in this real-world cohort. Switching to TAF led to improved kidney function, particularly in those with stage 2 CKD, which suggests that the indication for TAF in the guidelines could be extended to patients with an eGFR higher than 60 mL/min.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13500DOI Listing
June 2021

Incidence of Hepatitis C Virus Infections Among Users of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Pre-exposure Prophylaxis.

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021 Mar 16. Epub 2021 Mar 16.

Toronto Centre for Liver Disease. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Sexual transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is well documented among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-uninfected individuals. The use of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) may be associated with engagement in activities that facilitate the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and possibly HCV among PrEP users.

Methods: Between 2012 and 2019, the incidence of HCV and bacterial STIs were calculated among HIV-negative indviduals receiving PrEP at the University Health Network HIV Prevention Clinic. Mucosal, anal, and blood samples were taken to test for HIV, syphilis, and anti-HCV antibodies.

Results: Among 344 HIV-uninfected patients receiving PrEP, 86% were men having sex with men (MSM). Five individuals were HCV-antibody positive at the time of PrEP initiation. Serologic and virologic follow-up data were available for 109 HCV-negative individuals over 282 patient-years (PY). Two new infections were recorded, yielding an incidence of primary HCV infection of 0.7 per 100 PY. In contrast with HCV, the incidence rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were 49.2 per 100 PY, 36.3 per 100 PY, and 5.2 per 100 PY, respectively. Both individuals with new HCV diagnoses reported being MSM with a history of unprotected intercourse and 1 individual also reported recreational drug use. Both individuals were asymptomatic at the time of diagnosis and the infections were detected by routine laboratory monitoring.

Conclusions: The low incidence of HCV infections despite significantly higher rates of other STIs suggests that sexual transmission of HCV is uncommon in HIV-negative MSM PrEP users in this community. Performing routine risk-based HCV surveillance among PrEP users should be evaluated. The high incidence of STIs in this population indicates a vital role for periodic STI monitoring in those receiving PrEP.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2021.03.006DOI Listing
March 2021

Editorial: HBV cure-the quest for biomarkers to predict off-treatment sustained response. Authors' reply.

Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2021 02;53(4):555-556

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/apt.16233DOI Listing
February 2021

Peginterferon lambda for the treatment of outpatients with COVID-19: a phase 2, placebo-controlled randomised trial.

Lancet Respir Med 2021 05 5;9(5):498-510. Epub 2021 Feb 5.

The Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Background: To date, only monoclonal antibodies have been shown to be effective for outpatients with COVID-19. Interferon lambda-1 is a type III interferon involved in innate antiviral responses with activity against respiratory pathogens. We aimed to investigate the safety and efficacy of peginterferon lambda in the treatment of outpatients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19.

Methods: In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, outpatients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 were randomly assigned to a single subcutaneous injection of peginterferon lambda 180 μg or placebo within 7 days of symptom onset or first positive swab if asymptomatic. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1) using a computer-generated randomisation list created with a randomisation schedule in blocks of four. At the time of administration, study nurses received a sealed opaque envelope with the treatment allocation number. The primary endpoint was the proportion of patients who were negative for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) RNA on day 7 after the injection, analysed by a χ test following an intention-to-treat principle. Prespecified analysis of the primary endpoint, adjusted for baseline viral load, using bivariate logistic regression was done. The trial is now complete. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04354259.

Findings: Between May 18, and Sept 4, 2020, we recruited 30 patients per group. The decline in SARS-CoV-2 RNA was greater in those treated with peginterferon lambda than placebo from day 3 onwards, with a difference of 2·42 log copies per mL at day 7 (p=0·0041). By day 7, 24 (80%) participants in the peginterferon lambda group had an undetectable viral load, compared with 19 (63%) in the placebo group (p=0·15). After controlling for baseline viral load, patients in the peginterferon lambda group were more likely to have undetectable virus by day 7 than were those in the placebo group (odds ratio [OR] 4·12 [95% CI 1·15-16·73; p=0·029). Of those with baseline viral load above 10 copies per mL, 15 (79%) of 19 patients in the peginterferon lambda group had undetectable virus on day 7, compared with six (38%) of 16 in the placebo group (OR 6·25 [95% CI 1·49-31·06]; p=0·012). Peginterferon lambda was well tolerated, and adverse events were similar between groups with mild and transient aminotransferase, concentration increases more frequently observed in the peginterferon lambda group. Two individuals met the threshold of grade 3 increase, one in each group, and no other grade 3 or 4 laboratory adverse events were reported.

Interpretation: Peginterferon lambda accelerated viral decline in outpatients with COVID-19, increasing the proportion of patients with viral clearance by day 7, particularly in those with high baseline viral load. Peginterferon lambda has potential to prevent clinical deterioration and shorten duration of viral shedding.

Funding: The Toronto COVID-19 Action Initiative, University of Toronto, and the Ontario First COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30566-XDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7906707PMC
May 2021

Letter: rates and determinants of significant liver inflammation in chronic hepatitis B virus-infected patients with low ALT levels in the absence of significant fibrosis-authors' reply.

Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2021 01;53(1):215-216

Departments of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/apt.16183DOI Listing
January 2021

Clinical outcomes following DAA therapy in patients with HCV-related cirrhosis depend on disease severity.

J Hepatol 2021 May 23;74(5):1053-1063. Epub 2020 Nov 23.

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: HCV-infected patients with cirrhosis achieve high sustained virological response (SVR) rates with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) even after hepatic decompensation. We aimed to assess the clinical outcome following DAAs among patients with compensated and decompensated cirrhosis in relation to SVR and changes in model for end-stage liver disease (MELD) score.

Methods: Consecutive DAA-treated chronic HCV-infected patients with cirrhosis from 4 hepatology clinics were included. The primary endpoint in survival analyses was clinical disease progression, defined as liver failure, hepatocellular carcinoma, liver transplantation or death.

Results: In total, 868 patients were included with a median age of 59 (IQR 54-65) years; 719 (83%) with Child-Pugh A cirrhosis and 149 (17%) with Child-Pugh B/C cirrhosis. SVR was attained by 647 (90%) Child-Pugh A patients and 120 (81%) Child-Pugh B/C patients. During a median follow-up of 28 (IQR 20-36) months, 102 (14%) Child-Pugh A patients and 96 (64%) Child-Pugh B/C patients experienced clinical disease progression. SVR was independently associated with an improved event-free survival in patients with Child-Pugh A cirrhosis (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 0.47; 95% CI 0.27-0.82, p = 0.007), but not in patients with Child-Pugh B/C cirrhosis (adjusted HR 1.23; 95% CI 0.67-2.26; p = 0.51). Twelve weeks post-DAAs, 28 (19%) patients with Child-Pugh B/C cirrhosis had ≥2-point MELD decline, but their 2-year event-free survival did not differ from those with a stable MELD (47.9%; 95% CI 28.7-67.1 vs. 48.9%; 95% CI 38.1-59.7, respectively, p = 0.99).

Conclusions: Among patients with chronic HCV infection, DAA-induced SVR was associated with a reduced risk of clinical disease progression in patients with Child-Pugh A cirrhosis but not in patients with Child-Pugh B/C cirrhosis. In Child-Pugh B/C cirrhosis, a ≥2-point MELD decline did not translate into improved clinical outcome.

Lay Summary: Chronic HCV infection can be cured with antiviral therapy. In this study, we evaluated the long-term effects of antiviral therapy on liver-related complications in patients with cirrhosis. Our results suggest that patients with compensated cirrhosis who were cured of their HCV infection have a lower rate of complications. In contrast, the rate of complications was not related to virological cure among those with decompensated cirrhosis. While these patients seem to remain in need of liver transplantation, antiviral therapy may lower their priority on the liver transplantation waiting list.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2020.11.021DOI Listing
May 2021

Hepatitis B virus RNA decline without concomitant viral antigen decrease is associated with a low probability of sustained response and hepatitis B surface antigen loss.

Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2021 01 21;53(2):314-320. Epub 2020 Nov 21.

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Background: Serum hepatitis B virus (HBV) RNA may reflect intrahepatic HBV replication. Novel anti-viral drugs have shown potent HBV RNA decline without concomitant hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) decrease. How this relates to off-treatment response is yet unclear.

Aim: To study the degree of on-treatment viral antigen decline among patients with pronounced HBV RNA decrease in relation to off-treatment sustained response and HBsAg loss.

Methods: HBV RNA, HBsAg and hepatitis B core-related antigen (HBcrAg) were quantified in patients with chronic hepatitis B who participated in two randomised controlled trials of peginterferon-based therapy. Sustained response (HBV DNA <2000 IU/mL) and/or HBsAg loss were assessed in patients with and without on-treatment HBV RNA response (either >2 log HBV RNA decline or >1 log decline resulting in an undetectable value at on-treatment week 24), stratified by concomitant HBsAg decline (<0.5/0.5-1/>1 log).

Results: We enrolled 279 patients; 176 were hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive, and 103 were HBeAg-negative. Sustained response was achieved in 20.4% of patients. At on-treatment week 24, HBV RNA response was associated with higher sustained response rates (27.4% vs 13.0% in non-responders, P =  0.004). However, among patients with an HBV RNA response (n = 135), 56.4% did not experience >0.5 log HBsAg decline. Among HBV RNA responders, sustained response was achieved in 47.6% of those with >1 log HBsAg decline (n = 20/42), vs 16.0% with <0.5 log decline (n = 12/75, P = 0.001). Similar results were obtained with HBcrAg and when response was defined as HBsAg loss.

Conclusions: In this cohort, many patients with HBV RNA response during peginterferon-based treatment did not experience HBsAg and/or HBcrAg decline. The absence of concomitant decline in these viral antigens was associated with low rates of treatment response and HBsAg loss. Future trials should therefore consider kinetics of combined biomarkers to assess anti-viral efficacy. Trial registration, ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00114361, NCT00146705.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/apt.16172DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7839551PMC
January 2021

Prenatal hepatitis B screening, and hepatitis B burden among children, in Ontario: a descriptive study.

CMAJ 2020 Oct;192(43):E1299-E1305

Viral Hepatitis Care Network Study Group/Toronto Centre for Liver Disease (Biondi, Mandel, Shah, Capraru, Janssen, Feld), University Health Network, Toronto, Ont.; Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing (Biondi), Western University, London, Ont.; Public Health Ontario Laboratory (Marchand-Austin, Cronin, Ravirajan, Goneau, Mazzulli), Toronto, Ont.; National Microbiology Laboratory (Cronin), Public Health Agency of Canada, Winnipeg, Man.; Public Health Ontario (Nanwa, Ravirajan, Sander); ICES Central (Nanwa, Sander); Sinai Health System/University Health Network (Mazzulli); Institute of Medical Sciences (Feld), University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.

Background: Ontario is 1 of 5 provinces that immunize adolescents for hepatitis B virus (HBV), despite the World Health Organization recommendation for universal birth dose vaccination. One rationale for not vaccinating at birth is that universal prenatal screening and related interventions prevent vertical transmission. The aims of our study were to evaluate the uptake and epidemiology of prenatal HBV screening, and to determine the number of children in Ontario with a diagnosis of HBV before adolescent vaccination.

Methods: We extracted data from ICES, Public Health Ontario and Better Outcomes & Registry Network (BORN) Ontario databases. We assessed prenatal screening uptake and prevalence of prenatal hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) from 2012 to 2016, as well as subsequent hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg) and HBV DNA testing and percent positivity. We used age and region to subcategorize the results. In a separate unlinked analysis, we evaluated the number of children positive for HBV aged 0-11 years who were born in Ontario from 2003 to 2013.

Results: From 2012 to 2016, 93% of pregnant women were screened for HBV, with an HBsAg prevalence of 0.6%. Prevalence of HBsAg increased with age, peaking at older than 45 years at 3%. North Toronto had the highest overall prevalence of 1.5%, whereas northern Ontario had the lowest. Of women who were HBsAg positive, HBeAg and HBV DNA tests were subsequently ordered in 13% and 38%, respectively. Of children born in Ontario between 2003 and 2013, 139 of 23 759 tested positive for HBV.

Interpretation: Prenatal HBV screening is not universal and subsequent evaluation is poor, limiting optimal intervention and possibly contributing to some Ontario-born children being given a diagnosis of HBV before age 12 years. These findings underscore the limitations of the province's adolescent vaccination strategy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.200290DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7577574PMC
October 2020

Low Incidence of Adverse Outcomes in Adults With Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection in the Era of Antiviral Therapy.

Hepatology 2021 Jun 21;73(6):2124-2140. Epub 2021 May 21.

Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Background And Aims: Outcomes of persons with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in the era of antiviral therapy (AVT) are not well characterized. We determined the incidence and factors associated with clinical outcomes in a multiethnic, North American cohort of adults with chronic HBV infection, who were not on AVT at enrollment.

Approach And Results: Adults with chronic HBV infection, not receiving AVT, and without a history of decompensation, HCC, or liver transplantation (LT), were prospectively followed. Participants with known human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus, or hepatitis D virus (HDV) coinfection were excluded. During follow-up, treatment could be initiated per standard of care. Clinical outcomes included: incident cirrhosis, decompensation, HCC, OLT, and HBV-related death. Among 1,418 participants analyzed, 51.5% were women, median age was 41.1 years, 75% were Asian, 10% White, 13% Black, 24% HBeAg(+), and 1.5% cirrhosis at baseline. During the study, 274 started treatment, 83 had an alanine aminotransferase flare, 118 of 330 initially HBeAg(+) became HBeAg(-), and 90 of 1,329 became HBsAg(-). After 6,641 person-years follow-up, 8 participants (4 of 21 with baseline cirrhosis) had 12 clinical outcomes (2 decompensation, 5 HCC, 2 OLT, and 3 HBV-related deaths) and 19 of 1,397 had incident cirrhosis. Twenty-one of 26 participants had first outcome before treatment, none had become HBsAg(-), whereas 5/9 HBeAg(+) had become HBeAg(-) at time of first outcome. Cumulative percentage of clinical outcomes was 16% at year 4 in participants with baseline cirrhosis and 2% (including incident cirrhosis) at year 7 in those without.

Conclusions: Incidence of adverse outcomes was low in this closely monitored, large cohort of North American adults with predominantly inactive, chronic HBV without cirrhosis. Our data highlight the benefits of HBsAg loss and the importance of early diagnosis and treatment to prevent cirrhosis and other complications of chronic HBV infection.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.31554DOI Listing
June 2021

Diagnosis of Chronic Hepatitis B Pericomplication: Risk factors and Trends Over Time.

Hepatology 2021 Jun 15;73(6):2141-2154. Epub 2021 Jun 15.

Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Background And Aims: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a major cause of chronic liver disease, which can progress to cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and death. A timely diagnosis allows for antiviral treatment, which can prevent liver-related complications. Conversely, a late diagnosis signals a missed opportunity for earlier care and treatment. Our objective was to measure the proportion of chronic HBV diagnoses that are made within 6 months of presentation with a liver disease-related complication and examine associated factors and trends over time.

Approach And Results: We used provincial laboratory data to identify patients with chronic HBV diagnosed from 2003 to 2014. We measured the proportion who experienced a liver disease complication (decompensated cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, or liver transplant) within ±6 months of their HBV diagnosis date. A multivariable logistic regression model was used to identify factors associated with HBV diagnosis pericomplication. Of 18,434 patients with chronic HBV, 1,279 (6.9%) developed an HBV-related complication during the follow-up period. Among these, 570 (44.6%) had a first diagnosis pericomplication. HBV diagnosis pericomplication did not decrease over time and was independently associated with older age at HBV diagnosis, rural residence, alcohol use, and moderate to high levels of comorbidity. Female patients, immigrants, and those with more outpatient physician visits were less likely to have an HBV diagnosis pericomplication.

Conclusions: A high proportion of patients with HBV-related complications are first diagnosed with HBV pericomplication. These signal missed opportunities for earlier detection and treatment. Our findings support expansion of HBV screening.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.31557DOI Listing
June 2021

Real-World Effectiveness of Obeticholic Acid in Patients with Primary Biliary Cholangitis.

Hepatol Commun 2020 Sep 6;4(9):1332-1345. Epub 2020 Jul 6.

Toronto Centre for Liver Disease Toronto General Hospital University Health Network Toronto ON Canada.

Patients with primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) with incomplete response to ursodeoxycholic acid are at risk of disease progression and need additional therapy. Obeticholic acid (OCA) was approved in Canada in May 2017, but its effectiveness in a real-world setting has not been described. We sought to describe our experience with OCA in a Canadian cohort. OCA-naive patients treated at two Canadian centers were included. Clinical and biochemical data were collected at OCA initiation and during follow-up. Primary outcomes were changes in serum alkaline phosphatase (ALP), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), and total bilirubin (TB) over the duration of therapy. Secondary outcomes were changes in alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), immunoglobulin M (IgM), platelets, and albumin; and achievement of the primary endpoint of the original phase 3 study that led to OCA approval (A Placebo-Controlled Trial of Obeticholic Acid in Primary Biliary Cholangitis [POISE]), dose reductions, discontinuations, and tolerability. Repeated-measures models were used to assess changes in biochemistry over time. Sixty-four patients were included; 4 carried a diagnosis of overlap with autoimmune hepatitis. Mean age was 54.6 years, median ALP was 250 U/L, TB was 13 µmol/L, platelet count was 225 × 10/L, and 24% had liver stiffness measurements ≥16.9 kPa. There was a significant reduction in mean ALP of 55 U/L ( < 0.001), GGT of 138 U/L ( < 0.001), ALT of 11.9 U/L ( < 0.001), AST of 5.7 U/L ( < 0.05), and IgM of 0.70 g/L ( < 0.001) over 12 months; TB remained stable ( = 0.98). Forty-four patients met POISE-inclusion criteria, 39% (n = 17) of whom had 12-month biochemical measurements. In this subset, 18% (n = 3/17) met the 12-month POISE primary endpoint, but considering follow-up to 19 months, 43% achieved this target (n = 9/21). Pruritus was the most commonly reported complaint. : Use of OCA was associated with improvement in biochemical surrogates of outcome in PBC in a real-world setting.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep4.1518DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7471421PMC
September 2020

DNA Methylation and Immune Cell Markers Demonstrate Evidence of Accelerated Aging in Patients with Chronic Hepatitis B Virus or Hepatitis C Virus, with or without Human Immunodeficienct Virus Co-infection.

Clin Infect Dis 2021 07;73(1):e184-e190

Division of Clinical Care and Research, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Background: Several chronic diseases accelerate biological aging. We investigated age acceleration and the association between peripheral blood DNA methylation (DNAm) and immune cell markers in patients chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or the hepatitis C virus (HCV) with and without human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) co-infection.

Methods: Age acceleration was measured as the difference between epigenetic age (Horvath clock) and chronological age. The immune marker model of age acceleration was developed using Elastic Net regression to select both the immune markers and their associated weights in the final linear model.

Results: Patients with chronic HBV (n = 51) had a significantly higher median epigenetic age compared to chronological age (age accelerated) (P < .001). In patients with chronic HCV infection (n = 63), age acceleration was associated with liver fibrosis as assessed by histology (P < .05), or presence of HIV co-infection (P < .05), but not HCV mono-infection. Age acceleration defined by immune markers was concordant with age acceleration by DNA methylation (correlation coefficient = .59 in HBV; P = .0025). One-year treatment of HBV patients with nucleoside therapy was associated with a modest reduction in age acceleration, as measured using the immune marker model (-.65 years, P = .018).

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that patients with chronic viral hepatitis have accelerated epigenetic aging, that immune markers define biological age, and have the potential to assess the effects of therapeutic intervention on age acceleration.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa1371DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8427715PMC
July 2021

Maintained virological suppression and renal function with reduced dose tenofovir disoproxil fumarate in renally impaired chronic hepatitis B patients.

J Viral Hepat 2021 01 4;28(1):51-60. Epub 2020 Oct 4.

Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, ON, Canada.

Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) effectively suppresses viral replication in chronic hepatitis B (CHB), but occasionally leads to renal impairment. We evaluated the prevalence of viral and biochemical breakthrough and renal function kinetics in renally impaired patients with CHB on reduced and on full-dose TDF. This clinic-based longitudinal cohort study included patients receiving full and reduced dose TDF (due to eGFR [Cockcroft-Gault] <60 mL/min/1.73 m ). Viral and biochemical breakthroughs were assessed 1 month after starting full and reduced TDF dose until the end-of-follow-up. Breakthroughs were studied in full and reduced dose TDF, and renal function (MDRD) longitudinally before and after dose reduction within patients starting on full-dose TDF. Of 750 patients on TDF, 78 (10%) had reduced dose and 672 (90%) full dose. At the time of dose reduction, 36 (46%) patients had chronic kidney disease stage G3B. A viral breakthrough occurred in one cirrhotic dialysis-dependent patient (dosed 300 mg weekly) which resolved without signs of decompensation, and in one patient on full dose which resolved spontaneously. One biochemical breakthrough occurred during dose reduction and resolved naturally without viral breakthrough. The MDRD improved within the first year of dose reduction (+3.0 [2.5] mL/min per year; P < .005) and remained stable thereafter. Fifty-three (79%) patients reached an MDRD >50 mL/min during dose reduction. Low dose TDF maintains renal function and viral suppression in most renally impaired patients with CHB, even in those with advanced liver disease. This useful, yet simple strategy could be particularly viable in resource-constrained settings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jvh.13401DOI Listing
January 2021

Ultra-Long-term Follow-up of Interferon Alfa Treatment for HBeAg-Positive Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection.

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021 09 3;19(9):1933-1940.e1. Epub 2020 Sep 3.

Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, Toronto General Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Electronic address:

Background And Aims: Interferon-alpha (IFN-α) treatment for chronic hepatitis B (CHB) virus infection is finite and leads to relatively higher functional cure rates (HBsAg loss) than nucleo(s)tide analogue (NA) therapy. Effects of pegylated (PEG)/conventional IFN-α treatment on clinical outcomes were evaluated in an ultra-long-term follow-up of CHB patients.

Methods: HBeAg-positive patients treated with (PEG)IFN-α at a tertiary referral centre between 1977-2014 were included. We reviewed medical charts and consulted the municipal registry for patient information. Patients were invited for a single visit at the outpatient clinic in the case of missing follow-up data. The endpoints included serum HBeAg/HBsAg loss and incidence of clinical events, using life table methods and person-years to analyze the incidence of events. Patients were censored upon retreatment.

Results: The study cohort included 267 patients, 67% male, 58% Caucasian, with a median age of 32 years. The median follow-up duration was 11.5 years. The 5 and 10-year cumulative incidence of HBsAg loss were 14% and 32%, respectively. Baseline factors associated with a higher rate of HBsAg loss were male sex, Caucasian race, genotype A, age ≥40 years, and cirrhosis. HBsAg loss rates did not differ significantly between those who received short-term (≤24 weeks) vs long-term (>24 weeks) therapy. Both HBeAg and HBsAg loss were significantly associated with improved clinical outcomes. Early response (HBeAg loss) was associated with more HBsAg loss and better patient outcomes.

Conclusions: During long-term follow-up, high rates of HBsAg loss were observed from a single (PEG)IFN-α course. Its persistent effects suggest that a role for IFN-α remains, potentially in novel combination therapies in search of a functional cure.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2020.09.004DOI Listing
September 2021

Very low probability of significant liver inflammation in chronic hepatitis B patients with low ALT levels in the absence of liver fibrosis.

Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2020 10 4;52(8):1399-1406. Epub 2020 Sep 4.

Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Background: Guidelines recommend liver biopsy to rule out significant inflammatory activity in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients with elevated hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA but without other indications for treatment.

Aim: To study rates and determinants of clinically significant liver inflammation.

Methods: We selected patients with HBV DNA > 2000 IU/mL from the SONIC-B database. The presence of significant inflammation (METAVIR ≥ A2 or HAI ≥ 9) was assessed by liver biopsy and correlated with alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels (according to AASLD upper limits of normal [ULN]) and stratified by the presence of significant liver fibrosis (Ishak ≥ 3 or METAVIR ≥ F2).

Results: The cohort included 2991 patients; 1672 were HBeAg-positive. ALT was < ULN in 270 (9%), 1-2 times ULN in 852 (29%) and > 2 times ULN in 1869 (63%). Significant fibrosis was found in 1419 (47%) and significant inflammatory activity in 630 (21%). Significant inflammatory activity was found in 34% of patients with liver fibrosis, compared to 9.5% of those without (P < 0.001). Among patients without fibrosis, significant inflammatory activity was detected in 3.6% of those with normal ALT, 5.0% of those with ALT 1-2 times ULN and in 13% of those with ALT > 2 times ULN (P < 0.001). ALT < 2 times ULN had a negative predictive value of 95% for ruling out significant inflammatory activity among patients without liver fibrosis.

Conclusions: Among patients without significant fibrosis, an ALT level < 2 times ULN is associated with < 5% probability of significant inflammatory activity. If fibrosis can be ruled out using non-invasive methods, liver biopsy solely to assess inflammatory activity should be discouraged.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/apt.16067DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7540526PMC
October 2020

Nucleic Acid Polymer Therapy for Hepatitis B Virus: Strong Hepatitis B Surface Antigen Decline But Many Unanswered Questions.

Gastroenterology 2021 02 29;160(3):966-967. Epub 2020 Aug 29.

Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2020.06.097DOI Listing
February 2021

Precore and Basal Core Promoter Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) Variants Are Present From a Young Age and Differ Across HBV Genotypes.

Hepatology 2021 May;73(5):1637-1651

Department of Internal Medicine-Gastroenterology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Background And Aims: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) precore (PC) and dual basal core promoter (BCP) mutations halt and down-regulate hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) production respectively. PC mutation is rarely associated with HBV genotype A. We sought to examine the association of these variants with HBV genotypes, age, and HBeAg status in a racially diverse population in North America. Prospective study included 1,036 (808 adults, 228 children) participants in the Hepatitis B Research Network. PC and BCP variants were determined by Sanger sequencing, and dominant HBV species (>50%) were reported.

Approach And Results: Median age was 36.3 years (range, 2-80), 44.6% HBeAg(+), 74.2% Asians, 13.3% black, and 9.7% white. The dominant PC variant was present in 29.4% participants, including 20 with subgenotype A1 or A2. Seventeen of 20 participants with genotype A and PC had a compensatory C1858T mutation. In the HBeAg(+) cohort, the prevalence of PC and/or BCP variants increased from 14.4% in the first two decades to 51% after 40 years of age. Among those aged 2-18, 52% and 83% with dominant PC and BCP variants were HBeAg(+) compared to 3.8% and 29% in the >40 years age group. HBeAg clearance rates were significantly higher for those with dominant PC or BCP variants: 24.4 and 15.0 per 100 person-years compared to 6.0 in wild-type HBV (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: PC variants can be present in HBV genotype A and are usually associated with C1858T, which preserves the pregenome encapsidation sequence. Selection of PC and BCP variants occurred at a young age, with increasing prevalence across age groups. HBeAg(+) participants with dominant PC and BCP variants progressed to the HBeAg(-) phase of chronic HBV infection significantly faster. This finding has potential clinical and therapeutic implications.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.31506DOI Listing
May 2021

Analysis of Hepatitis B Virus Haplotype Diversity Detects Striking Sequence Conservation Across Genotypes and Chronic Disease Phase.

Hepatology 2021 May;73(5):1652-1670

Division of Molecular Research and Development, Victorian Infectious Diseases, Reference Laboratory, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity, Melbourne Healthy, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.

Background And Aims: We conducted haplotype analysis of complete hepatitis B virus (HBV) genomes following deep sequencing from 368 patients across multiple phases of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) infection from four major genotypes (A-D), analyzing 4,110 haplotypes to identify viral variants associated with treatment outcome and disease progression.

Approach And Results: Between 18.2% and 41.8% of nucleotides and between 5.9% and 34.3% of amino acids were 100% conserved in all genotypes and phases examined, depending on the region analyzed. Hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) loss by week 192 was associated with different haplotype populations at baseline. Haplotype populations differed across the HBV genome and CHB history, this being most pronounced in the precore/core gene. Mean number of haplotypes (frequency) per patient was higher in immune-active, HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis phase 2 (11.8) and HBeAg-negative chronic hepatitis phase 4 (16.2) compared to subjects in the "immune-tolerant," HBeAg-positive chronic infection phase 1 (4.3, P< 0.0001). Haplotype frequency was lowest in genotype B (6.2, P< 0.0001) compared to the other genotypes (A = 11.8, C = 11.8, D = 13.6). Haplotype genetic diversity increased over the course of CHB history, being lowest in phase 1, increasing in phase 2, and highest in phase 4 in all genotypes except genotype C. HBeAg loss by week 192 of tenofovir therapy was associated with different haplotype populations at baseline.

Conclusions: Despite a degree of HBV haplotype diversity and heterogeneity across the phases of CHB natural history, highly conserved sequences in key genes and regulatory regions were identified in multiple HBV genotypes that should be further investigated as targets for antiviral therapies and predictors of treatment response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.31516DOI Listing
May 2021

Reducing Read Time of Point-of-Care Test Does Not Affect Detection of Hepatitis C Virus and Reduces Need for Reflex RNA.

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021 07 4;19(7):1451-1458.e4. Epub 2020 Aug 4.

Viral Hepatitis Care Network (VIRCAN), Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Toronto Centre for Liver Disease, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Electronic address:

Background & Aims: Global elimination of hepatitis C virus (HCV) will require increases in diagnosis. Point of care (POC) tests that detect antibodies against HCV can be useful for testing large and difficult to reach populations. The most accurate POC test requires a 20 min read time to identify antibody-positive samples. We investigated whether viremic patients could be identified using a shorter read time, to increase efficiency and reduce the need for reflex tests (a follow-up test for HCV RNA on the same specimen to confirm viremia).

Methods: Patients with past or current HCV infections provided samples at 2 clinics in Canada for evaluation by the OraQuick HCV Rapid antibody POC test. A community HCV-screening program in Madrid, Spain (real-world cohort) invited people to be tested for HCV with the same OraQuick test. Patients provided samples of whole blood, via finger prick. Fingerprick samples were tested immediately after collection. In the clinic cohort, photographs of the developing test were taken at 15 second intervals, and blinded readers recorded the time to positivity. In the real-world cohort, readers recorded the OraQuick result at 5 minutes, and each minute after, up to 10 minutes, and then again at 20 minutes; viremia was then evaluated using a POC HCV RNA test (GeneXpert HCV Viral Load Assay). Sera from viremic and non-viremic clinic patients were used to quantify antibody titers to investigate the relationship between the time of band appearance and antibody concentration. Fisher's exact test and exact logistic regression were used to determine factors associated with a positive result at 5 minutes.

Results: Blood from all viremic patients produced a positive result in the antibody POC test by 5 min. Median time to a positive result for 171 viremic patients was 2.6 min (range, 1.8-4.6 min), vs 4.1 min (range, 2.3-14.4 min) for 108 patients with resolved infection (P < .001). The 5-min threshold identified all viremic cases among 176 HCV antibody-positive patients in the real-world cohort, confirmed by testing for HCV RNA. In the pooled cohorts, antibody positivity at 5 min identified viremic patients with 100% sensitivity (95% CI, 98.4%-100%); the negative predictive value was 100% (95% CI, 94.9%-100%). The positive predictive value at 5 min was 62.0% (95% CI, 56.7%-67.0%) and therefore insufficient alone to detect viremia; an HCV RNA test would still be necessary to confirm active infection.

Conclusions: The wait time for the OraQuick HCV Rapid antibody POC blood test can be reduced from 20 min to 5 min and continue to reliably identify patients with HCV infection. Shortening the test time could increase high-throughput screening, reduce loss to follow up, and reduce the need for reflex HCV RNA testing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cgh.2020.07.058DOI Listing
July 2021
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