Liver disease activity and hepatitis B virus replication in chronic delta antigen-positive hepatitis B virus carriers

Hepatology. 1985 Jul-Aug;5(4):544-7. doi: 10.1002/hep.1840050404.


Delta antigen is currently thought to reflect superinfection of the liver with a defective RNA virus (delta agent), requiring helper function from hepatitis B virus for its replication. To assess the influence of delta agent on hepatitis B virus replication in patients persistently infected with both viruses and showing chronic liver disease, we measured serum and liver hepatitis B virus DNA in HBsAg-positive chronic liver disease patients who were either positive or negative for delta antigen in the liver. Hepatitis B virus DNA was assayed in the serum of 21 patients with delta antigen-positive/HBsAg-positive chronic liver disease and in 21 patients with delta antigen-negative/HBsAg-positive chronic liver disease matched for HBeAg/anti-HBe status and underlying liver histology. HBcAg and delta antigen in liver was determined by immunofluorescence or immunoperoxidase staining. In delta antigen-positive/HBsAg-positive chronic liver disease, serum hepatitis B virus DNA was detected transiently in 4 of 21 cases (19%) and was present in these patients at low levels (trace to 2+). In contrast, 9 of 21 (43%) delta antigen-negative/HBsAg-positive chronic liver disease patients were serum hepatitis B virus DNA positive, and five of these had high serum hepatitis B virus DNA levels (3+ to 4+). Serum HBsAg and anti-HBc titers were significantly lower in delta antigen-positive cases and correlated with reduced amount of HBcAg in the liver.(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

  • Carrier State / microbiology*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis*
  • Hepatitis B / microbiology*
  • Hepatitis B Antibodies / analysis
  • Hepatitis B Antigens / analysis*
  • Hepatitis B Core Antigens / analysis
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / analysis
  • Hepatitis B virus / physiology*
  • Hepatitis delta Antigens
  • Hepatitis, Chronic / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Liver / analysis
  • Virus Replication*


  • DNA, Viral
  • Hepatitis B Antibodies
  • Hepatitis B Antigens
  • Hepatitis B Core Antigens
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Hepatitis delta Antigens