The immune response against the infection is impaired in patients with chronic hepatitis B, and although HBV DNA can effectively be suppressed by nucleos(t)ide analogues (NA), durable immune control is only established in a minority of patients. This especially applies in HBeAg‐negative patients who usually must receive lifelong NA treatment. Calculated withdrawal of NA leads to a relapse of HBV DNA in most patients. There is evidence that this sudden exposure of viral antigens can trigger immune control in some patients which may result in HBsAg loss or a form of immune control, then sustained low HBV DNA levels and normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT). In the first prospective randomized trial investigating tenofovir treatment cessation in HBeAg‐negative patients, most patients did not need retreatment after NA cessation, although all patients showed a transient relapse in HBV DNA. HBsAg loss was identified in almost 20% nearly 3 years after stopping NA. Further confirmation of these findings is needed in larger randomized trials and patients who are most likely to benefit from finite therapy must be identified to individualize NA stopping strategies. However, these results suggest that in patients without risk factors such as cirrhosis or other severe conditions, NA treatment may be stopped, as long as adequate safety rules for retreatment are followed.
HBV, immune control, treatment cessation, withdrawal