The spectrum of chronic hepatitis B infection in children ranges from asymptomatic carriage with minimal disease, to progression to cirrhosis and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma in adulthood. Identifying those who will benefit from treatment is a challenge. Interferon-based therapies have limited efficacy, while prolonged use of nucleos(t)ide analogues may promote resistance. New antiviral agents have improved barriers to resistance, but long-term outcome is not yet known. Untreated infection, however, may in some, lead to natural seroconversion and reduce risk of further disease. Hepatitis B e antigen-positive infection is the most common scenario in chronically infected children, with e antigen-negative hepatitis rarely encountered. This paper reviews the clinical guidelines published in 2013 by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN), and focuses on the guidance for treatment in e antigen-positive children. The most significant difference is the lower threshold for starting treatment recommended by NICE guidelines. The need for regular evaluation of each child, in the light of new evidence and new drugs as they emerge, must remain the focus of each clinician involved in the care of children with hepatitis B virus infection.
- Infectious Diseases
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