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Clinical characteristics and association analysis of persistent low-level HBsAg expression in a physical examination population with HBV infection.


ABSTRACT: Certain patients with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection present with persistently low levels of serum hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and have been indicated to have low rates of HBV nucleic acid replication. To explore the serological and molecular epidemiological characteristics of HBV population with low-level HBsAg in the present study, associated serum markers and virologic genotype detection were performed accordingly. Determination of HBV markers was performed using a chemiluminescence immunoassay from which 2,544 out of 45,256 adults who underwent routine health examination were tested positive for HBsAg. HBV DNA was detected by real-time fluorescent quantitative PCR. The patients were divided into low-level and high-level groups, according to their HBsAg levels (cut-off value, 10 IU/ml). The prevalence and levels of HBsAg positivity and HBV DNA in patients with HBV infection were analyzed by age, sex, serological pattern and clinical type. The fibrosis status of patients with low-level HBsAg was assessed by determining the aspartate aminotransferase-to-platelet ratio (APRI), and sequencing was employed to determine serotypes and genotypes. HBV-infected patients with low-level HBsAg (<10 IU/ml) accounted for 15.41% of the 2,544 HBsAg-positive patients, and the prevalence of HBsAg positivity exhibited a tendency to increase with age. The male-to-female ratio was ~1.9:1, and the average age was 54.98±16.28 years among HBV-infected patients with low-level HBsAg. The major serological pattern and clinical types were HBsAg/antibody against hepatitis Be antigen (anti-HBe)/antibody against hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc)-positive (94.90%) and chronic asymptomatic (ASC) (97.95%), respectively. HBV DNA exhibited a low-level of replication and the prevalence of HBV DNA positivity assessed by the routine method and by the enrichment method was 27.74% (97/392) and 45.92% (180/392), respectively. No significant differences among the age groups were identified in the different HBsAg level groups (P>0.05). The prevalence of HBV DNA positivity was associated with HBsAg only in patients with serological pattern HBV-M2 (HBsAg/anti-HBe/anti-HBc-positive) in the low-level HBsAg group (odds ratio: 1.30; 95% CI: 1.15-1.47; P<0.05). The APRI had no association with age, HBsAg, HBV DNA level or liver function index in ASC patients in the low-level HBsAg group (P>0.05). The prevalence of the serotype adw and genotype B was 85.53 and 89.47%, respectively. Further improvement in the systematic study of populations with low-level HBsAg has important clinical and epidemiological significance for improving the detection of HBV serological markers, elucidating the mechanisms leading to low-level HBsAg, overcoming immune tolerance to eliminate HBV infection and preventing HBV transmission.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6909745 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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