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Clinical Significance of the Antinuclear Antibodies in Chronic Viral Hepatitis B in Children by Tudor L. Pop, Nicolae Miu

Background: The presence of autoantibodies is frequent in chronic viral hepatitis evolution. Defining the role of autoimmunity in disease evolution or response to interferon treatment is still in debate, both in children and in adults. There are few studies about the influence of autoimmunity in children with chronic viral hepatitis. The aim of our study was to establish the clinical significance of antinuclear autoantibodies (ANA) in chronic hepatitis B in children.
Methods: We have studied 80 children with chronic hepatitis B (30 female; mean age 12.31  4.13 years). For each patient we performed haematological and biochemical tests and in 41 patients we analyzed the liver histology. The immunological parameters analyzed were: circulating immune complexes (CIC), complement, and the serum levels of immunoglobulin G, A, and M. We analysed by indirect fluorescence the presence of ANA and other autoantibodies. The response to treatment (hepatoprotectors, interferon and Lamivudine) was established depending on seroconversion to HBeAb and HBsAb.
Results: Positive ANA were found at baseline in 15% of the patients and during follow-up in 21.25%. In ANA-positive patients compared to those without autoantibodies we found lower levels of haemoglobin and platelet numbers (p = 0.0245, p = 0.0236, respectively), higher gamma-glutamyl-transferase level (p = 0.040) and higher CIC level (p = 0.0155). During interferon treatment 13.79% of those who initially tested ANA-negative presented ANA, compared to 2.56% in those without interferon (p = 0.042). There was no difference in response to interferon treatment according to the presence of ANA (p = 0.4201).
Conclusions: Searching for ANA in children with chronic hepatitis B is a key element in describing the evolution of these patients, especially when considering interferon therapy. Interferon treatment stimulates the development of ANA, but their presence does not influence the response to this particular treatment. The role of autoimmune processes in the evolution and response to treatment of chronic hepatitis B patients remains controversial.

DOI: 10.7754/Clin.Lab.2013.130222