Hepatology International

, Volume 2, Supplement 1, pp 28–36 | Cite as

Natural history and clinical management of chronic hepatitis B virus infection in children

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Abstract

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection may cause acute, fulminant, or chronic hepatitis, leading to liver cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma. Despite the availability of effective vaccine, HBV infection during infancy or early childhood is common in areas of high endemicity. In these regions, mother-to-infant transmission accounts for approximately 50% of chronic infections. Although the natural history of HBV infection in adults is well characterized, little information is available in the literature regarding the natural history of HBV infection in children. Similar to infection in adults, chronic HBV infection in children can be divided into distinct phases: immune tolerant, immune clearance, and inactive carrier state. However, acute exacerbation, with reactivation of HBV replication and re-elevation of alanine aminotransferase levels after hepatitis B e antigen seroconversion, is relatively rare in children, in comparison to adults. Although several potent antiviral agents are now available for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B, experience with these agents in the pediatric setting is limited. To date, conventional interferon α and lamivudine are the only two antiviral agents approved to treat chronic hepatitis B in children. The rapid emergence of resistant HBV associated with long-term lamivudine therapy, as well as poor tolerability associated with conventional interferon α, are factors that should be considered before initiating antiviral therapy. This article reviews current knowledge regarding the natural history and treatment of chronic hepatitis B in children. Factors that affect the natural history of HBV infection in children are also reviewed.

Keywords

Hepatitis B virus Chronic hepatitis B Hepatitis B e antigen Children Adolescents 

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Copyright information

© Asian Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of PediatricsNational Taiwan University HospitalTaipeiTaiwan

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