1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine III, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
2Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Medial University of Graz, Austria; Center of Biomarker research in Medicine (CBmed), Austria.
3Department of Medicine I and Christian Doppler Laboratory on Iron and Phosphate Biology, Medical University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.
The introduction of Hepatitis B Immunoglobulins (HBIg) prophylaxis at and after liver transplantation (LT) facilitated excellent long-term survival of transplant patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Several studies suggested that only short-term (i.e. 4-8 weeks) HBIg prophylaxis after LT followed by the long-term administration of HBV polymerase inhibitors prevents HBV recurrence. In hepatitis D virus (HDV)/HBV co-infected patients, the need for long-term HBIg prophylaxis on top of HBV polymerase inhibitors is unknown. HDV requires HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) for uptake into hepatocytes to subsequently establish HDV replication. Data on HDV recurrence and its impact on outcomes after LT are limited. In this review, we evaluated the available data on post-LT recurrence of HBV and/or HDV. Overall, HBIg prophylaxis was effective, but 10-13% of patients became HBsAg positive after LT. Only a single study from Turkey reported HDV recurrence, which was not observed in other LT centres. Since all studies administered continuous HBIg prophylaxis, the post-LT recurrence rates without HBIg prophylaxis remain unknown. In a German study, the clinical course and histopathological aspects of liver injury (inflammation, fibrosis and steatosis) were similar in post-LT patients on continuous HBIg and those who stopped HBIg after a median of 72 months. Discontinuation of HBIg in stable patients after LT for HBV/HDV co-infection did not lead to impaired overall survival or a higher recurrence rate in this long-term follow-up. In summary, discontinuation of HBIg after liver transplantation for HBV/HDV liver disease seems safe, but randomized controlled studies are needed before it can be generally recommended.