Combination Chemotherapy for Hepatitis B Virus
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- Shaw, T. & Locarnini, S. Drugs (2000) 60: 517. doi:10.2165/00003495-200060030-00001
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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) was identified as a cause of viral hepatitis more than 30 years ago and hepatitis B vaccines have been available for almost 20 years, but HBV infection continues to be a global health problem, responsible for about 1.2 million deaths annually. By the end of this year, almost 400 million people — about 5% of the world’s population and more than ten times the number infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — will be infected with HBV. Chemotherapy remains the only treatment option for controlling chronic HBV infection once acquired, but none of the many different chemotherapeutic strategies used in the past has proven consistently successful. Prospects for successful treatment of HBV have improved dramatically during the past decade due to the development of new, well tolerated and efficacious anti-HBV drugs, and to advances in our understanding of HBV replication and pathogenesis. The newer anti-HBV drugs are capable of reducing viral loads very rapidly, but the initial response is invariably followed by very much slower elimination of residual virus. As more effective anti-HBV drugs become available, the emergence of drug resistance during the slower phase of HBV elimination will probably become the most significant obstacle in the way of eventual control of HBV infection. Experience with HIV indicates that combination chemotherapy may suppress or eliminate drug resistance and methods for pre-clinical and clinical assessment of anti-HBV drug combinations are being developed. Basic research into mechanisms of drug action and interaction should assist in the design and optimisation of combination chemotherapy for HBV infection, for which additional new anti-HBV drugs will undoubtedly be required in future.