Study objectives: To determine whether inactive hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) carriers are at a higher risk of drug-induced hepatotoxicity than control subjects during antituberculosis treatment with standard short-course regimens of isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and/or pyrazinamide.
Design: Retrospective case-control study.
Setting: Tertiary university medical center.
Patients: One hundred ten inactive HBsAg carriers with newly diagnosed active tuberculosis who had been treated with isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and/or pyrazinamide were included in the study population. Inactive HBsAg carriers were defined as follows: (1) positive for HbsAg; (2) negative for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg), positive for antibody to HBeAg; (3) < 105 copies per mL of serum hepatitis B virus DNA; and (4) normal pretreatment aspartate aminotransferase (AST)/alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels. Ninety-seven HBsAg-negative patients who received standard antituberculosis medication were selected as control subjects.
Results: The baseline characteristics of the 110 inactive HBsAg carriers were similar to those of the 97 noncarriers. A total of 85% of persons in both groups had received an initial treatment regimen that included pyrazinamide. Thirty-eight inactive HBsAg carriers (35%) and 19 control subjects (20%) exhibited elevated liver enzyme levels during antituberculosis treatment (p = 0.016). Drug-induced hepatotoxicity, which was defined as a liver transaminase level of ≥ 120 IU/L, occurred more frequently in HBsAg carriers (9 of 110 carriers; 8%) than in control subjects (4 of 97 control subjects; 4%), although this was not a statistically significant discrepancy (p = 0.230). More importantly, HBsAg carriers (n = 9; 8%) who received antituberculosis therapy evidenced a higher proportion of moderate-to-severe drug-induced hepatotoxicity when compared with the control subjects (n = 2; 2%; p = 0.05). Isoniazid and rifampin were reintroduced as therapy after AST/ALT levels returned to baseline values in 10 patients (6 HBsAg carriers and 4 control subjects) among the 13 patients exhibiting drug-induced hepatotoxicity, and these retrials proved to be successful in 7 patients (5 HBsAg carriers and 2 control subjects).
Conclusions: Tuberculosis treatment in HBsAg-positive and HBeAg-negative inactive carriers could be pursued in the usual manner, using standard short-course regimens of isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and/or pyrazinamide, with the condition that monthly liver function tests are performed.