Chronic Hepatitis B -- Who Should Be Treated?

Carla S. Coffin, MD; Samuel S. Lee, MD


March 21, 2006

In This Article


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause both acute and chronic infection and is an important human pathogen, with an estimated 350 million individuals chronically infected worldwide. HBV carriers are at risk for the development of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and patients with chronic infection require life-long monitoring. Effective hepatitis B antiviral treatment is important given the significant associated global morbidity and mortality from liver-related complications. The goals of treatment are to achieve sustained suppression of HBV replication and remission of liver disease. In the past decade, great progress has been made in the treatment of chronic HBV infection. Interferon alfa, longer-acting pegylated interferon, and nucleos(t)ide analogs such as lamivudine, adefovir dipivoxil, and entecavir are currently available for treatment of HBV infection. Effective treatment decisions require an understanding of the natural history of hepatitis B and the range of treatment options. This review includes criteria for determining when and how to most effectively intervene with antiviral therapy for chronically infected patients.

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