AIM--To determine the hepatic expression of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF alpha) in patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. METHODS--Frozen liver biopsy sections from 19 patients with chronic HBV infection were studied, 12 of whom were HBeAg positive and 10 serum HBV DNA positive. Hepatic expression of TNF alpha was determined using immunohistochemistry. RESULTS--Only infiltrating mononuclear cells showed immunoreactive staining for TNF alpha (median 2, range 0-3; n = 19) which appeared as diffuse positive staining material in the cytoplasm. Patients with active liver disease, assessed histologically and biochemically, had a higher level of expression, both in the number of TNF alpha positive cells and the proportion of TNF alpha positive infiltrating mononuclear cells. There was no correlation between the expression of TNF alpha and serological parameters of viral infection (HBeAg and HBV DNA status and HBV DNA concentrations). CONCLUSION--Hepatic expression of TNF alpha is increased in chronic HBV infection and is related to the activity of liver disease and not to the level of HBV replication.
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