Four to 6 months of conventional interferon alpha (IFN-alpha) (5MU daily or 10MU three times weekly) resulted in HBeAg loss in approximately 33% of HBeAg positive patients (controls: 12%). Longer treatment duration improved HBeAg seroconversion. Children with chronic HBV infection and high ALT respond to IFN-a at similar rates. Good end-of-treatment (ET) biochemical and virological response were also achieved with IFN-alpha in HBeAg negative, HBV-DNA positive hepatitis patients. Sustained response (SR) however, was disappointing, but improved with longer duration of treatment: (10-15% SR with 4/6 months treatment: 30% SR with 24 months treatment). Weekly pegylated IFN-alpha2a (PegIFN-alpha2a) for 24 weeks gave a significantly higher HBeAg conversion rate (33%) than conventional IFN-alpha2a (25%). Fifty-two weeks of PegIFN-alpha2b gave a sustained HBeAg loss in 35% patients and HBeAg seroconversion in 29% patients. Similar results were obtained with 48 weeks of weekly PegIFN-alpha2a. PegIFN-alpha2a monotherapy was found to be superior to lamivudine monotherapy in affecting a 6-month SR (normal ALTs and HBV DNA < 20,000 copies/mL) in HBeAg negative/anti-HBe positive chronic hepatitis B patients. There is a tendency for IFN-a and lamivudine combination to result in better sustained response than lamivudine monotherapy. This tendency is also observed with PegIFN-a and lamivudine combination although the combination did not appear to be better than PegIFN-alpha monotherapy. IFN induced HBeAg seroconversion is durable, could increase over time and resulted in better overall survival and survival free of hepatic decompensation or hepatocellular cancer. The main advantage of IFN-a therapy is that a course of finite duration may achieve sustained off-therapy response in a proportion of both HBeAg positive and HBeAg negative chronic hepatitis B patients. However, IFN treatment is usually associated with side-effects, especially flu-like symptoms, fatigue, neutropenia, thrombocytopenia and depression. These are usually tolerable but may require dose modification and premature cessation of treatment (5%). Interferon therapy induced hepatitis flares may lead to decompensation in patients with cirrhosis and can be dangerous in patients with decompensated liver function despite dose reduction.
In the Asia Pacific region Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is often acquired in individuals already infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV). The immune suppression caused by HIV infection reduces cellular immune response against HBV and liver inflammation may improve, but the risk of developing cirrhosis is not. HBV infection does not affect the progression of HIV disease. Anti-retroviral agents may be directly hepatotoxic and cause ALT elevations in patients with chronic hepatitis. Highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) improves immunity and as cytotoxic lymphocyte responses improve, hepatitis flares can occur, usually r within 3 months of initiation of HAART. These hepatitis flares may be followed by normalization of ALT and clearance of HBVDNA. If lamivudine is included in the HAART regime, hepatitis flares may not occur till late and these late flares signal the development of lamivudine resistant HBV strains (90% of HBV/HIV co-infection). Treatment options for chronic HBV infection include interferon (IFN), and nucleoside analogues. Lamivudine, adefovir dipivoxil, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (DF) are nucleoside analogues with activity against both HBVDNA polymerase and HIV reverse transcriptase. The latter two compounds have added activity against lamivudine resistant HBVDNA. Lamivudine should be avoided in the initial treatment of both hepatitis B as well as HIV because of the high incidence of resistance. Interferon should be considered first for treatment of HBV in HIV co-infected individuals and is usually unsuccessful in the later stages of HIV infection when immune suppression is extreme. As new and improved agents in HAART continue to prolong survival, the use of liver transplantation for cirrhotic patients co-infected with HIV and HBV may increase.
A consecutive series of 2,277 patients presenting for upper gastrointestinal endoscopy was analysed. The following groups of patients were studied with reference to sex, race and dialect groups: those presenting with dyspepsia but no haemorrhage, those presenting with upper gastrointestinal haemorrhage, those with non-ulcer dyspepsia, gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer. Males out-numbered females in all diagnostic groups. Male and female Malays were under-represented in all diagnostic groups when compared to the Singapore population. Amongst female Chinese, there was an excess of Cantonese patients and an under-representation of Teochew patients in most diagnostic groups. These dialect differences were not remarkable amongst male Chinese. The possible reasons for these differences and their significance are discussed.
Thirty-one patients with endoscopically proven chronic gastric ulcer completed a randomised double-blind trial comparing the effects of cimetidine and placebo on ulcer healing. Seventeen patients received cimetidine 400 mg bid and 14 patients received placebo. Repeat endoscopy at six weeks showed that the ulcer had healed in 12 patients (71%) receiving cimetidine and in four patients (29%) receiving placebo (p=O.032). Non-smokers healed their ulcers better than smokers (83% vs 35%, p=O.023). The use of cimetidine was not associated with any adverse effects.
Peptic ulcer occurs with different frequencies in the three main racial groups in Singapore. This study aimed firstly to determine the prevalence of Helicobacter pylori in peptic ulcer and non-ulcer dyspepsia patients of the different races and secondly, to assess the relation between H pylori, histological gastritis, patient diagnosis, and race. Gastric antral biopsy specimens from 1502 patients undergoing gastroduodenoscopy were studied and 892 (59%) were positive for H pylori. H pylori was strongly associated with gastritis: 873 of 1197 (73%) patients with gastritis were positive compared with 19 of 305 (6%) without gastritis (p less than 0.0001). The prevalences of H pylori and gastritis were similar in peptic ulcer patients of different races. Malay patients with non-ulcer dyspepsia, however, were less likely to be positive for H pylori (10 of 46 (22%] or to have antral gastritis (17 of 46 (37%] than Chinese (292 of 605 (48%) were positive for H pylori and 421 of 605 (70%) had gastritis) and Indians (35 of 61 (57%) were H pylori positive and 42 of 61 (69%) had gastritis). Patients with duodenal ulcer were more likely to be positive for H pylori than those with non-ulcer dyspepsia, even when subjects with gastritis were considered separately. While our results do not help to explain the observed racial differences in peptic ulcer frequency it may be that the pathophysiology of non-ulcer dyspepsia is different in the different races in Singapore.
The aim of this study was to determine, first, whether racial differences exist in the seroprevalence of Helicobacter pylori infection in Singapore, and second, whether these differences correlate with racial differences in peptic ulcer frequency. A commercial serological test for immunoglobulin (Ig)G antibody to H. pylori which was 90% sensitive and 83% specific in our population was used to screen 403 adult blood donors of Chinese, Malay and Indian origin, aged between 15-60 years. Serum specimens from 84 paediatric patients admitted to the Paediatrics Department, National University of Singapore, with non-gastroenterological illnesses were also tested. In all three races, seroprevalence of H. pylori increased with age. Indians have the highest prevalence of infection followed by Chinese and Malays. Peptic ulcer prevalences are known to be highest in Chinese, followed by Indians and Malays. The Malays have the lowest prevalence of H. pylori and peptic ulcer among the three races in Singapore. Indians have a higher prevalence of H. pylori antibodies but a lower frequency of peptic ulcer than the Chinese. Racial differences in peptic ulcer frequency between Chinese and Indians are not explained by the prevalence of H. pylori infection; other environmental or genetic factors may be involved.
Of the estimated 50 million new cases of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection diagnosed annually, 5-10% of adults and up to 90% of infants will become chronically infected, 75% of these in Asia where hepatitis B is the leading cause of chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In Indonesia, 4.6% of the population was positive for HBsAg in 1994 and of these, 21% were positive for HBeAg and 73% for anti-HBe; 44% and 45% of Indonesian patients with cirrhosis and HCC, respectively, were HBsAg positive. In the Philippines, there appear to be two types of age-specific HBsAg prevalence, suggesting different modes of transmission. In Thailand, 8-10% of males and 6-8% of females are HBsAg positive, with HBsAg also found in 30% of patients with cirrhosis and 50-75% of those with HCC. In Taiwan, 75-80% of patients with chronic liver disease are HBsAg positive, and HBsAg is found in 34% and 72% of patients with cirrhosis and HCC, respectively. In China, 73% of patients with chronic hepatitis and 78% and 71% of those with cirrhosis and HCC, respectively, are HBsAg positive. In Singapore, the prevalence of HBsAg has dropped since the introduction of HBV vaccination and the HBsAg seroprevalence of unvaccinated individuals over 5 years of age is 4.5%. In Malaysia, 5.24% of healthy volunteers, with a mean age of 34 years, were positive for HBsAg in 1997. In the highly endemic countries in Asia, the majority of infections are contracted postnatally or perinatally. Three phases of chronic HBV infection are recognized: phase 1 patients are HBeAg positive with high levels of virus in the serum and minimal hepatic inflammation; phase 2 patients have intermittent or continuous hepatitis of varying degrees of severity; phase 3 is the inactive phase during which viral concentrations are low and there is minimal inflammatory activity in the liver. In general, patients who clear HBeAg have a better prognosis than patients who remain HBeAg-positive for prolonged periods of time. The outcome after anti-HBe seroconversion depends on the degree of pre-existing liver damage and any subsequent HBV reactivation. Without pre-existing cirrhosis, there may be only slight fibrosis or mild chronic hepatitis, but with pre-existing cirrhosis, further complications may ensue. HBsAg-negative chronic hepatitis B is a phase of chronic HBV infection during which a mutation arises resulting in the inability of the virus to produce HBeAg. Such patients tend to have more severe liver disease and run a more rapidly progressive course. The annual probability of developing cirrhosis varies from 0.1 to 1.0% depending on the duration of HBV replication, the severity of disease and the presence of concomitant infections or drugs. The annual incidence of hepatic decompensation in HBV-related cirrhosis varies from 2 to 10% and in these patients the 5-year survival rate drops dramatically to 14-35%. The annual risk of developing HCC in patients with cirrhosis varies between 1 and 6%; the overall reported annual detection rate of HCC in surveillance studies, which included individuals with chronic hepatitis B and cirrhosis, is 0.8-4.1%. Chronic hepatitis B is not a static disease and the natural history of the disease is affected by both viral and host factors. The prognosis is poor with decompensated cirrhosis and effective treatment options are limited. Prevention of HBV infection thorough vaccination is still, therefore, the best strategy for decreasing the incidence of hepatitis B-associated cirrhosis and HCC.
The Asia-Pacific region has disparate hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemiology, with prevalence ranging from 0·1% to 4·7%, and a unique genotype distribution. Genotype 1b dominates in east Asia, whereas in south Asia and southeast Asia genotype 3 dominates, and in Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), genotype 6 is most common. Often, availability of all-oral direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) is delayed because of differing regulatory requirements. Ideally, for genotype 1 infections, sofosbuvir plus ledipasvir, sofosbuvir plus daclatasvir, or ombitasvir, paritaprevir, and ritonavir plus dasabuvir are suitable. Asunaprevir plus daclatasvir is appropriate for compensated genotype 1b HCV if baseline NS5A mutations are absent. For genotype 3 infections, sofosbuvir plus daclatasvir for 24 weeks or sofosbuvir, daclatasvir, and ribavirin for 12 weeks are the optimal oral therapies, particularly for patients with cirrhosis and those who are treatment experienced, whereas sofosbuvir, pegylated interferon, and ribavirin for 12 weeks is an alternative regimen. For genotype 6, sofosbuvir plus pegylated interferon and ribavirin, sofosbuvir plus ledipasvir, or sofosbuvir plus ribavirin for 12 weeks are all suitable. Pegylated interferon plus ribavirin has been replaced by sofosbuvir plus pegylated interferon and ribavirin, and all-oral therapies where available, but cost and affordability remain a major issue because of the absence of universal health coverage. Few patients have been treated because of multiple barriers to accessing care. HCV in the Asia-Pacific region is challenging because of the disparate epidemiology, poor access to all-oral therapy because of availability, cost, or regulatory licensing. Until these problems are addressed, the burden of disease is likely to remain high.
The Asia-Pacific Expert Committee on Hepatitis B Management recently reviewed the impact of hepatitis B in the region and assessed the differences and similarities observed in the practical management of the disease in individual Asia-Pacific countries. Hepatitis B is a major health concern in the Asia-Pacific region, and of all chronically infected carriers worldwide, approximately 75% are found in Asia. The disease poses a considerable burden on healthcare systems, and is likely to remain a cause of substantial morbidity and mortality for several decades. Disease prevention activities, including screening and vaccination programs, have been implemented successfully in some Asia-Pacific countries and similar measures are being established in other parts of the region. The management of hepatitis B in the Asia-Pacific varies throughout the region, with each country confronting different issues related to treatment options, disease monitoring and duration of therapy. The influence of cost, availability of diagnostic equipment, and patient awareness and compliance are of additional concern. Although guidelines such as those developed by the Asian Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver have been created to address problems encountered in the management of hepatitis B, many physicians in the region still find it difficult to make satisfactory management decisions because of the treatment choices available. This article examines the different approaches to hepatitis B management in a number of Asia-Pacific countries, and highlights the difficulties that can arise when adhering to treatment guidelines and disease prevention solutions that have proved to be successful in the region.