Hepatitis B virus infection in patients with idiopathic liver disease

Hepatology. 1991 Jun;13(6):1044-51.


We studied 67 HBsAg-negative Israeli patients (36 negative for all HBV serological markers as group 1 and 31 positive for antibodies to HBs and HBc as group 2) with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of unknown origin using a rapid, sensitive and specific assay for the detection of low levels of hepatitis B virus in serum. This technique uses a high-affinity monoclonal antibody to HBs against an a domain epitope of HBsAg to capture the virion, followed by hepatitis B virus DNA amplification with the polymerase chain reaction. In addition, 55 subjects without liver disease served as controls: Group 3 (n = 32) was negative for all hepatitis B virus markers; group 4 (n = 23) was positive for antibodies to HBs and HBc. We found 11 individuals in group 1 (31%) and 10 in group 2 (29%) harboring low levels of hepatitis B virus DNA in serum. In contrast, no one in group 3 or group 4 was positive by this technique (p less than 0.0001). Using polymerase chain reaction primers spanning other regions of the hepatitis B virus genome and a method of restriction-fragment analysis of polymerase chain reaction-amplified sequences, we detected significant DNA sequence heterogeneity, suggesting infection with distinct hepatitis B virus strains. DNA extracted from paraffin-embedded liver biopsy specimens of 42 patients from groups 1 and 2 was shown to contain hepatitis B virus DNA by polymerase chain reaction in 11 of 12 patients with circulating virion DNA. More important, 18 additional patients whose sera were negative by HBs-antibody capture/polymerase chain reaction amplification had hepatitis B virus DNA sequences in their livers.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • DNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Genes, Viral
  • Genetic Variation
  • Hepatitis B / complications*
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis B / microbiology
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics
  • Hepatitis B virus / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver Diseases / complications*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prevalence


  • DNA, Viral