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Less Virus in Hepatitis B Antigen-Negative Patients

Lower hepatitis B virus due to lower virion productivity

THURSDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Patients chronically infected with hepatitis B virus who are negative for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) have lower levels of hepatitis B virus DNA due to lower intrahepatic virion productivity, according to a report in the September issue of Gastroenterology.

Joerg Petersen, M.D., from University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, and colleagues examined hepatitis B virus replicative and transcriptional activity in liver biopsies from 119 treatment-naive patients chronically infected with the virus (42 HBeAg-positive and 77 HBeAg-negative).

The researchers found that the median serum viral DNA, intrahepatic viral DNA, and viral covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) were significantly lower in the HBeAg-negative patients. The lower virion productivity was due to lower steady-state levels of pregenomic RNA per cccDNA. HBsAg levels were similar regardless of HBeAg status when normalized for cccDNA level.

"Lower viremia in HBeAg-negative individuals is not only due to lower cccDNA content but also to impaired virion productivity, which can arise without emergence of HBeAg variants and without affecting HBsAg production," Petersen and colleagues conclude.

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