AIM: To analyze the association between the emergence of tyrosine-methionine-asparatate-asparatate (YMDD) mutants (reverse transcription; rtM204I/V) and deterioration of liver function during long-term lamivudine treatment of Japanese patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.
METHODS: The data of 61 consecutive Japanese patients with chronic hepatitis B who underwent continuous lamivudine treatment for more than 24 mo and had a virological response were analyzed. Analysis of YMDD mutants was done by real-time polymerase chain reaction with LightCycler probe hybridization assay for up to 90 mo (mean, 50.8 mo; range, 24-90 mo).
RESULTS: A mixed mutant-type (YMDD + tyrosine-isoleucine-asparatate-asparatate: YIDD or tyrosine-valine-asparatate-asparatate: YVDD) or a mutant-type (YIDD or YVDD) were found in 57.4% of 61 patients at 1 year, 78.7% of 61 patients at 2 years, 79.6% of 49 patients at 3 years, 70.5% of 34 patients at 4 years, 68.4% of 19 patients at 5 years, 57.1% of 14 patients at 6 years, and 33.3% of 6 patients at 7 years. Of the 61 patients, 56 (92%) had mixed mutant- or a mutant-type. Only 5 (8%) had no mutants at each observation point. Virological breakthrough was found in 26 (46.4%) of 56 patients with YMDD mutants, 20 of whom had a hepatitis flare-up: the remaining 30 (53.6%) had neither a virological breakthrough nor a flare-up. All 20 patients who developed a hepatitis flare-up had a biochemical and virological response after adefovir was added to the lamivudine treatment.
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that it is possible to continue lamivudine treatment, even after the emergence of YMDD mutants, up to the time that the patients develop a hepatitis flare-up.