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COVID-19 and hepatitis B infection

Saleh A Alqahtani, Maria Buti

Corresponding author name: Maria Buti
Corresponding author e-mail: mbuti@vhebron.net

Citation: Antiviral Therapy 2020; 25:389-397
doi: 10.3851/IMP3382

Date accepted: 24 November 2020
Date published online: 22 February 2021

Abstract

The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has emerged as a major burden worldwide, resulting in serious public health challenges. HBV infection is another widely spread virus that chronically affects about 257 million people. The management of patients with HBV infection has gained attention in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients with COVID-19 have varying levels of liver involvements, resulting from direct viral effects on the liver as well as hepatotoxic drugs. This was demonstrated by elevated levels of liver enzymes, particularly evident in those patients with severe SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, scarce information is available on the management of COVID-19 patients having an underlying chronic liver disease, including HBV infection. Studies have shown reactivation of HBV infection following treatment with tocilizumab and corticosteroids, emphasizing the need for caution when using these agents to treat COVID-19 patients with HBV infection. HBV screening and prophylaxis should be considered in patients with elevated transaminase levels and also in high prevalence populations. In patients with advanced liver disease, attention must be given to minimize the risk of liver decompensation. Nevertheless, further investigation is needed to enable an evidence-based approach for the care of these patients.

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