Liver Disease | Liver India | Alcoholic Liver Disease

Hepatitis D

HDV is a defective single-stranded RNA virus that requires the helper function of HBV to replicate. HDV requires HBV for synthesis of envelope protein composed of HBsAg, which is used to encapsulate the HDV genome.

Hepatitis D Virus Modes of Transmission


The modes of HDV transmission are similar to those for HBV, with percutaneous exposures the most efficient. Sexual transmission of HDV is less efficient than for HBV. Perinatal HDV transmission is rare.

Hepatitis D - Clinical Features


HDV infection can be acquired either as a co-infection with HBV or as a superinfection of persons with chronic HBV infection. Persons with HBV-HDV co-infection may have more severe acute disease and a higher risk of fulminant hepatitis (2%-20%) compared with those infected with HBV alone; however, chronic HBV infection appears to occur less frequently in persons with HBV-HDV co-infection. Chronic HBV carriers who acquire HDV superinfection usually develop chronic HDV infection. In long-term studies of chronic HBV carriers with HDV superinfection, 70%-80% have developed evidence of chronic liver diseases with cirrhosis compared with 15%-30% of patients with chronic HBV infection alone.


The serologic course of HDV infection varies depending on whether the virus is acquired as a co-infection with HBV or as a superinfection of a person with chronic HBV infection. In most persons with HBV-HDV co-infection, both IgM antibody to HDV (anti-HDV) and IgG anti-HDV are detectable during the course of infection. However, in about 15% of patients the only evidence of HDV infection may be the detection of either IgM anti-HDV alone during the early acute period of illness or IgG anti-HDV alone during convalescence. Anti-HDV generally declines to sub-detectable levels after the infection resolves and there is no serologic marker that persists to indicate that the patient was ever infected with HDV. Hepatitis Delta antigen (HDAg) can be detected in serum in only about 25% of patients with HBV-HDV co-infection. When HDAg is detectable it generally disappears as HBsAg disappears and most patients do not develop chronic infection. Tests for IgG anti-HDV are commercially available in the United States. Tests for IgM anti-HDV, HDAg and HDV RNA by PCR are only available in research laboratories.


In patients with chronic HBV infection who are super-infected with HDV several characteristic serologic features generally occur, including: 1) the titer of HBsAg declines at the time HDAg appears in the serum, 2) HDAg and HDV RNA remain detectable in the serum because chronic HDV infection generally occurs in most patients with HDV superinfection, unlike the case with co-infection, 3) high titers of both IgM and IgG anti-HDV are detectable, which persist indefinitely



Because HDV is dependent on HBV for replication, HBV-HDV co-infection can be prevented with either pre- or postexposure prophylaxis for HBV. However, no products exist to prevent HDV superinfection of persons with chronic HBV infection. Thus, prevention of HDV superinfection depends primarily on education to reduce risk behaviors.

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