Rapid early HDV RNA decline in the peripheral blood but prolonged intrahepatic hepatitis delta antigen persistence after liver transplantation

J Hepatol. 2012 Jan;56(1):115-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.06.016. Epub 2011 Jul 14.


Background & aims: Chronic HDV infection is an inflammatory liver disease and liver transplantation (LTX) remains the only curative treatment option for most patients. The hepatitis D virus (HDV) uses HBsAg as its surface protein, however, it is controversial to what extend HDV may be detected independently of HBsAg in blood and liver after LTX. The aims of this study were to investigate kinetics of HDV RNA and HBsAg early after LTX, to apply the data to a mathematical model and to study long-term persistence of HDV after LTX.

Methods: We retrospectively analyzed 26 patients with chronic hepatitis delta who underwent LTX between 1994 and 2009. Blood samples were obtained every 1-3 days during the first 14 days after LTX. Data were applied to a mathematical model to study viral kinetics. Available liver biopsy samples were stained for HBV and HDV viral antigens and tested for HBV DNA/cccDNA.

Results: HBsAg and HDV RNA became negative after a median of 5 days (range 1-13) and 4 days (range 1-10), respectively. Early HDV RNA and HBsAg decline paralleled almost exactly in all patients; however the mathematical model showed a high variability of virion death. HDAg stained positive in transplanted livers in six patients in the absence of liver HBV DNA/cccDNA, serum-HBsAg, and HDV RNA for up to 19 months after LTX.

Conclusions: HDV RNA and HBsAg decline follow almost identical kinetic patterns within the first days after LTX. Nevertheless, intrahepatic latency of HDAg has to be considered when exploring novel concepts to withdraw HBIG.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / blood
  • Hepatitis D, Chronic / surgery*
  • Hepatitis D, Chronic / virology*
  • Hepatitis Delta Virus / genetics
  • Hepatitis Delta Virus / immunology
  • Hepatitis Delta Virus / isolation & purification*
  • Hepatitis delta Antigens / analysis
  • Humans
  • Liver / virology
  • Liver Transplantation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Virus Latency
  • Young Adult


  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis delta Antigens
  • RNA, Viral