What is the role of the e antigen, (HBeAg) in the pathophysiology of hepatitis B (HBV) (Hep B) infection?

Updated: Aug 01, 2018
  • Author: Nikolaos T Pyrsopoulos, MD, PhD, MBA, FACP, AGAF; Chief Editor: BS Anand, MD  more...
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Answer

The e antigen, HBeAg, which is also produced from the region in and near the core gene, is a marker of active viral replication. It serves as an immune decoy and directly manipulates the immune system; it is thus involved in maintaining viral persistence. HBeAg can be detected in patients with circulating serum HBV DNA who have “wild type” infection. As the virus evolves over time under immune pressure, core promotor and precore mutations emerge, and HBeAg levels fall until the level is not measurable by standard assays.

Individuals who are infected with the wild type virus often have mixed infections, with core and precore mutants in up to 50% of individuals. They often relapse with HBeAg-negative disease after treatment.


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