Background & Aims: HBV reactivation is a risk in patients receiving anti-CD20 antibodies for the treatment of lymphoma. The purpose of this post hoc analysis was to evaluate the efficacy of an ultra-high sensitivity HBsAg assay to guide preemptive antiviral treatment in patients with lymphoma and resolved HBV infections using prospectively stored samples from an HBV DNA monitoring study. Methods: HBV reactivation (defined as HBV DNA levels of ≥11 IU/ml) was confirmed in 22 of 252 patients. A conventional HBsAg assay (ARCHITECT, cut-off value: 0.05 IU/ml) and an ultra-high sensitivity HBsAg assay employing a semi-automated immune complex transfer chemiluminescence enzyme technique (ICT-CLEIA, cut-off value: 0.0005 IU/ml) were performed at baseline, at confirmed HBV reactivation and monitored after HBV reactivation. Results: Baseline HBsAg was detected using ICT-CLEIA in 4 patients; in all of whom precore mutants with high replication capacity were reactivated. Of the 6 patients with HBV DNA detected below the level of quantification at baseline, 5 showed HBV reactivation and 3 of the 5 had precore mutations. Sensitivity for detection by ARCHITECT and ICT-CLEIA HBsAg assays at HBV reactivation or the next sampling after HBV reactivation was 18.2% (4 of 22) and 77.3% (17 of 22), respectively. Of the 5 patients undetectable by ICT-CLEIA, HBV reactivation resolved spontaneously in 2 patients. All 6 patients reactivated with precore mutations including preS deletion could be diagnosed by ICT-CLEIA HBsAg assay at an early stage of HBV reactivation. Multivariate analysis showed that an anti-HBs titer of less than 10 mIU/ml, HBV DNA detected but below the level of quantification, and HBsAg detected by ICT-CLEIA at baseline were independent risk factors for HBV reactivation (adjusted hazard ratios, 15.4, 31.2 and 8.7, respectively; p <0.05). Conclusions: A novel ICT-CLEIA HBsAg assay is an alternative method to diagnose HBV reactivation. Clinical trial number: UMIN000001299. Lay summary: Hepatitis B virus can be reactivated in lymphoma patients receiving anti-CD20 antibodies such as rituximab. Currently, reactivation requires the monitoring of HBV DNA, but monitoring of the surface antigen (HBsAg) could provide a relatively inexpensive, quick and easy alternative. We assessed the performance of an ultra-high sensitivity HBsAg assay and showed that it could be effective for the diagnosis and monitoring of HBV reactivation.
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