In a chimpanzee model of acute type B hepatitis, at the time of onset of hepatitis B virus replication and before the development of immunity to hepatitis B virus, interferon is present in the plasma. This is followed by an increase in the display of HLA class I, but not class II proteins, on the hepatocyte membrane. In chronic hepatitis B virus infection, there is a low density of HLA class I protein display on the infected hepatocyte. Administration of α‐interferon enhances HLA display and in many cases is followed by a transaminase elevation, seroconversion of HBe antigen to antibody and disappearance of hepatitis B virus DNA from serum, changes implying clearance of infected hepatocytes. Successful response to interferon therapy may be predicted by a rapidly rising serum β‐microglobulin, a component of the HLA class I molecule, during the first 2 weeks of therapy, before the rise in transaminases.
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