In areas with low hepatitis B virus (HBV) endemicity such as most parts of Europe and the United States "anti-HBc alone" is found in 10-20% of all individuals with HBV markers, i.e., 1-4% of the population. In about 10% of these individuals HBV DNA is detected by PCR, the proportions varying greatly depending on the population studied, being highest in individuals coinfected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) (above 35%) and HIV (above 85%). A small proportion of individuals with "anti-HBc alone" are in the window phase of an HBV infection or in a stage of late HBV immunity. For the large proportion of these individuals this is not the case and they are thought to have an unresolved HBV-infection or a chronic infection in a late or "low grade" productive state. Currently, limited studies have been performed concerning the clinical aspects of individuals with "anti-HBc alone" and suspected chronic HBV infection. The majority of these individuals seem to be healthy. Some chronic carriers with "anti-HBc alone," however, do present signs of chronic hepatitis. Individuals with "anti-HBc alone" are potentially infectious. This is exemplified by a few case reports of HBV transmission to sexual contacts, perinatal transmission between mother and newborns and in blood recipients. Recommendations are given in relation to both the diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in the individuals with "anti-HBc alone" and in the blood banking and transplantation services.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.