Role of anti-HBs in functional cure of HBeAg+ chronic hepatitis B patients infected with HBV genotype A

Hui Xu, Stephen Locarnini, Darren Wong, Rachel Hammond, Danni Colledge, Sally Soppe, Thao Huynh, Tim Shaw, Alexander J. Thompson, Peter A. Revill, P. Mark Hogarth, Bruce D. Wines, Renae Walsh, Nadia Warner

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Background & Aims: HBsAg-specific antibody responses are difficult to detect during chronic hepatitis B infection (CHB) and are often overlooked. The aim of this study was to examine whether anti-HBs may be involved in functional cure (FC) by profiling anti-HBs responses in patients with CHB using a panel of specific assays. Methods: Longitudinal serum samples were obtained from 25 patients with CHB who were infected with HBV genotype A and were undergoing nucleos(t)ide analogue (NA) treatment: 14 achieved FC while 11 remained infected (non-FC). Anti-HBs immune complexes (HBsAg-IC), FcγRIIIa dimer binding, epitope specificity and neutralisation efficacy were measured. Results: HBsAg-IC peaks were detected prior to HBsAg loss in 10/14 FC patients. These HBsAg-IC peaks overlapped with either an alanine aminotransferase (ALT) flare (8/10 patients), or a rise in ALT (2/10 patients). HBsAg-IC peaks were detected in 7/11 non-FC patients, but were not associated with an ALT flare. FCγRIIIa binding was detected in 9/14 FC patients, independent from detection of overlapping HBsAg-IC/ALT peaks. FC patients had stable HBsAg epitope occupancy across the study, whereas non-FC patients had a reduction in HBsAg epitope occupancy within the first 12–24 weeks of NA treatment. Convalescent sera from FC patients recognised more HBsAg epitopes and neutralised HBV infection more potently than anti-HBs derived from vaccinees. Neutralisation potency appeared to increase post-HBsAg loss in 4/5 FC patients examined. Conclusions: Using these assays, we confirm that anti-HBs responses are present and fluctuate over time in this cohort of patients with HBeAg+ CHB, who were infected with HBV genotype A and treated with NAs. Key anti-HBs profiles associated with either FC or failure to achieve FC were also identified, suggesting a role for anti-HBs responses in FC. Lay summary: Using a panel of assays to characterise hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs) responses in a group of patients with chronic hepatitis B, we identified anti-HBs profiles associated with either functional cure, or failure to achieve functional cure. Functional cure was associated with immune complex peaks which overlapped with alanine aminotransferase flares. Conversely, in those who did not achieve functional cure, immune complex peaks were present, but were not associated with alanine aminotransferase flares, and a decline in anti-HBs diversity was observed early during treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hepatology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • ADCC
  • ALT
  • Antibody
  • B cell response
  • clearance profile
  • epitope mapping
  • Fc receptors
  • FcγRIIIa
  • HBsAg
  • Immune complex
  • liver
  • Neutralisation

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