Frequent delayed spontaneous seroclearance of hepatitis B virus after incident HBV infection among adult high-risk groups

Daniela K. van Santen, Anders Boyd, Sylvia Bruisten, Gerard J. B. Sonder, Maria Prins, Robin van Houdt

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2 Citations (Scopus)


High rates (~25%) of developing chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive for > 6 months following infection) have been observed in people who use drugs (PWUD) and men who have sex with men (MSM). We aimed to estimate the frequency of delayed HBsAg seroclearance, along with its determinants, and time to delayed HBsAg seroclearance. Data were used from MSM and PWUD enrolled in the Amsterdam Cohort Studies (1985-2002) who had anti-hepatitis B core antibody seroconversion. Potential determinants for standard HBsAg seroclearance, delayed HBsAg seroclearance and chronic HBV were examined using multinominal logistic regression. Time to HBsAg seroclearance was estimated using Kaplan-Meier curves. A total of 147 incident HBV infections occurred during follow-up. On initial HBsAg testing after infection (6-12 months), 42 (29%) were HBsAg-positive and 105 (71%) were HBsAg-negative (‘standard HBsAg seroclearance’). Of the 42 initially HBsAg-positive individuals, 22 subsequently tested HBsAg-negative (of whom 7 (31.8%) were HBV DNA positive at last visit, suggesting occult HBV). Overall, 15 became HBsAg-negative and HBV DNA-negative (‘delayed HBsAg seroclearance’), while 27 remained HBsAg and/or HBV DNA-positive (‘chronic HBV’). The 5-year cumulative probability of delayed HBsAg seroclearance was 41.6% for initially HBsAg-positive individuals. Delayed HBsAg seroclearance and remaining chronically infected were associated with younger age and HIV/hepatitis C virus (HCV)-co-infection. In conclusion, delayed HBsAg seroclearance is common in these key adult populations at-risk for HBV, while proportion developing HBV chronicity (18%) is still higher compared to the general population (~5%). Given the proportion of individuals with occult HBV infection and that HCV direct-acting antivirals can lead to HBV reactivation, HBV DNA testing in HCV co-infected MSM/PWUD are warranted prior to treatment initiation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-87
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of viral hepatitis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • chronicity
  • delayed seroclearance
  • hepatitis B surface antigen
  • hepatitis B virus
  • key populations

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