A survey of 1433 apparently healthy Chinese military personnel revealed a high prevalence (12.7%) of hepatitis B antigen (HBAg), which is comparable to that found in other studies in Taiwan, and a statistically significant association between HBAg and SGOT elevation. A detailed study of forty-four 20- and 21-year-old men with HB antigenemia revealed few clinical or laboratory abnormalities other than mild SGOT elevation (13 cases) and BSP retention (17 cases). Liver biopsies revealed that portal tract inflammation and expansion and lobular histopathology including cell swelling, focal inflammation, and necrosis, and eosinophilic bodies were commonly present although these changes were often mild and nonspecific. Cirrhosis was not found in any case. Using currently accepted criteria 1 case was classified as chronic aggressive hepatitis, 9 as chronic persistent hepatitis, 9 as lobular hepatitis, 19 as nonspecific changes, and 3 cases as normal. These results indicate that the majority of young Chinese men with asymptomatic HB antigenemia do not have severe chronic liver disease. Follow-up study over a number of years, however, will be required to accurately determine long-term prognosis in HBAg carriers.
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