Viral Load Pattern Among Hepatitis B Surface Antigen‑positive Patients: Laboratory Perspective and Implications for Therapy

Author(s): Iregbu KC, Nwajiobi‑Princewill PI

Background: Hepatitis B viral infection is an old medical problem with worldwide distribution. It is usually diagnosed using serologic methods. However, the decision as to which patient to treat or not remains challenging due to the poor sensitivity of serologic markers as prognostic or severity markers. Viral load (VL) determination using polymerase chain reaction techniques is a useful tool in decision‑making. Aim: To determine the proportion of hepatitis B‑positive patients who fall into different care groups based on the Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Nigeria (SOGHIN) and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines, respectively, using result of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA determination. Materials and Methods: This is a retrospective and descriptive study. Data from all patients sent to the medical microbiology laboratory, National Hospital Abuja over a period of 28 months (November 2012 to February 2015) for hepatitis B DNA VL determinations were analyzed using Microsoft Excel 2010 (Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA, USA) and IBM SPSS version 20.0 (IBM SPSS, Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Results: A total 666 patients, with mean age of 33.2 years, were tested. For those whose ages were known 36.2% (100/276) were below 30 years and 63.8% (176/276) 30 years and above. Exactly 66.7% (444/666) were males and the remaining 33.3% (222/666) were females. The VL of the patients varied from 20 to 1.7 × 108 IU/ml, with an average of 3.5 × 106 IU/ml. Around 76.1% (507/666) had measurable assay levels (20 − 1.7 × 108 IU/ml); 10.8% (76/666) had below 20 IU/ml and 3.8% (25/666) above 1.7 × 108 IU/ml. About 9.3% (62/666) had no detectable HBV DNA in their samples. About 46.8% (312/666) of the patients had levels between 20 and 2 × 103 IU/ml; 16.4% (109/666) had between 2001 and 2 × 104 IU/ml while 16.7% (111/666) had VL of between 20,001 and 1.7 × 108 IU/ml. Males tended to have detectable and higher VLs than females (P = 0.04). Conclusion: HBV DNA assay used in accordance with existing treatment guidelines will improve quality of care. To avoid unnecessary liver biopsy, there is a need to further fine‑tune the SOGHIN guidelines

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