This study aimed to investigate the dynamic pattern of serum hepatitis B virus (HBV) RNA in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients on long-term nucleos(t)ide analogue (NA) therapy and evaluate predictor value of end-of-treatment (EOT) serum HBV RNA status on drug-withdrawal durability.
We carried out a real-life cohort study of 326 CHB patients on NA treatment between February 12, 2016 and February 21, 2018. Thirty of these patients discontinued NA treatment after enrollment, and were included in 2-year off-therapy follow-up. Serum HBV RNA levels were determined using the RNA simultaneous amplification testing method.
Both serum HBV RNA and DNA levels declined significantly in long-term antiviral progress. When the treatment duration was longer than 3 years, the undetectable rates of HBV RNA and DNA were 55.10% and 97.0%, respectively. The serum HBV RNA-negative rate was 39.5%. The cumulative 2-year off-therapy viral and clinical relapse rate was 40.56%; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 21.51-59.61 and 31.31%; 95% CI, 11.32-51.29 in all patients, respectively. Patients with EOT hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)≤1000 IU/mL plus HBV RNA negativity had a relatively lower cumulative 2-year off-therapy viral relapse rate (23.01%; 95% CI, 0.17-45.99). EOT HBsAg≤1000 IU/mL plus HBV RNA negativity showed obvious superiority for the EOT HBsAg≤1000 IU/mL single in drug withdrawal durability prediction, with better specificity (18.18% vs. 72.73%, P=0.03), and the positive predictive value and negative predictive value were 76.92% and 47.06%, respectively.
In the long-term antiviral process, both serum HBV RNA and DNA levels declined significantly. EOT serum HBV RNA negativity was not an independent drug withdrawal marker, but can complement the HBsAg titer to monitor drug withdrawal in CHB patients on long-term NA therapy.