Adenine arabinoside (Ara-A) therapy and abrupt withdrawal of corticosteroids have both been used in the treatment of chronic infections due to hepatitis B virus (HBV). In order to better understand the effects and mechanism of action of these treatments, we treated ducks chronically infected with duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) with different dosage regimens of the two therapies. We measured endogenous DNA polymerase activity and used sensitive molecular biological techniques to monitor serum and intrahepatic viral replicative forms during and after drug treatment. Ara-A had a transient, dose related inhibitory effect on DHBV replication. Viral plus strand synthesis was disproportionately affected. Following the cessation of Ara-A treatment markers of viral replication returned to their baseline values. We conclude that Ara-A exerts its effect through inhibition of viral DNA polymerase. Corticosteroid treatment results in an increase in DHBV replication, but steroid withdrawal results in a short-lived transient decrease in markers of viral replication to below pretreatment values. Our results suggest that steroid withdrawal decreases hepadna virus replication through a mechanisms of immune modulation. On the basis of these results and previous trials in HBV infected patients, we predict that neither agent will efficiently eliminate viral replication in chronic hepadna virus infection when used as the sole therapeutic modality. We suggest that the differences in the mechanisms of action of Ara-A treatment and corticosteroid withdrawal be exploited, and the use of combination therapy be explored.
K. Hirota, A. Sherker, M. Omata
Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore