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Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a leading cause of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma worldwide. Its prevalence approaches 10% in hyperendemic areas, such as southeast Asia, China, and Africa. Although chronic HBV infection is seen less frequently in North America and Europe, an estimated 1.25 million persons in the United States are infected. In the past decade, revolutionary strides have been made toward the treatment of chronic HBV infection. Interferon-alpha was once the only available therapy but has recently been joined by the nucleoside analogues, the most extensively studied of which is lamivudine. Interferon therapy continues to have a role in the treatment of a carefully selected group of patients. Lamivudine therapy, which has less stringent selection criteria, suppresses HBV DNA in almost all treated patients: Seventeen percent to 33% experience loss of hepatitis B e antigen, and 53% to 56% have a histologic response. Extended lamivudine treatment leads to the development of a specific lamivudine-resistant virus with base-pair substitutions at the YMDD locus of the DNA polymerase. Newer nucleoside analogues and other immunomodulator therapies are being investigated. In the future, combination therapy with different classes of agents may yield improved response rates and delay the development of resistance.
Annals of internal medicine – Pubmed
Published: Apr 27, 2000
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