Changes in markers of hepatitis B viral replication and standard liver function tests were studied in 30 patients with HBsAg positive chronic liver disease starting or stopping prednisolone/azathioprine therapy, and compared with those occurring in 15 patients who did not receive therapy. On stopping prednisolone/azathioprine, 10 out of 11 HBeAg positive patients and one out of three patients negative for HBeAg and anti-HBe, lost HBV-DNA polymerase activity (p less than 0.01), five lost HBeAg, three developed anti-HBe and HBsAg concentration decreased (p less than 0.01). Only one out of seven untreated HBeAg positive patients lost HBeAg and there were no significant changes in DNA polymerase activity. In the anti-HBe positive patients, 14 starting therapy and eight untreated, there were no significant changes in the markers of viral replication - although two patients developed DNA polymerase activity on high maintenance doses of prednisolone - but a significant decrease (p less than 0.05) in aspartate transaminase in the treated group. It is concluded that the cessation of prednisolone/azathioprine therapy in HBeAg positive patients will result in a reduction in viral replication. In anti-HBe positive patients such therapy may be beneficial.
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