Research Article

Enhanced HBsAb production in pathogenesis of fulminant viral hepatitis type B.

Br Med J 1976; 2 doi: (Published 18 September 1976) Cite this as: Br Med J 1976;2:669
  1. I L Woolf,
  2. N El Sheikh,
  3. H Cullens,
  4. W M Lee,
  5. A L Eddleston,
  6. R Williams,
  7. A J Zuckerman


    The possible importance of humoral immunity in the pathogenesis of fulminant hepatitis was investigated by comparing 17 patients with fulminant hepatitis type B with 20 patients with severe but non-fulminant disease. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was cleared from the serum significantly faster (P less than 0-001) in those with fulminant hepatitis, and in 41% anti-HBsAg (HBsAb) was detectable by radioimmunoassay (RIA) at presentation. In all 11 sera from patients with fulminant hepatitis that were examined by electron microscopy aggregates of HBsAg and HBsAb were seen. In contrast, HBsAb was never detected by RIA in those with non-fulminant hepatitis, and in only one serum specimen (5%) were aggregates seen on electron microscopy. A significant sex difference between fulminant and non-fulminant hepatitis was observed, 65% of patients with fulminant hepatitis but only 15% of patients with non-fulminant hepatitis being women (P less than 0-01). An enhanced production of HBsAb in fulminant hepatitis, by leading to free HBsAb in portal blood, may cause an Arthus reaction in the sinusoids of the liver with ensuing ischaemic necrosis of hepatocytes.