Research Article

Increased severity and morbidity of acute hepatitis in drug abusers with simultaneously acquired hepatitis B and hepatitis D virus infections.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 290 doi: (Published 11 May 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;290:1377
  1. A G Shattock,
  2. F M Irwin,
  3. B M Morgan,
  4. I B Hillary,
  5. M G Kelly,
  6. J F Fielding,
  7. D A Kelly,
  8. D G Weir


    Hepatitis D virus (delta agent) markers were present in 111 (36%) of 308 intravenous drug abusers who were positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), 52 of these having hepatitis D virus antigenaemia. IgM antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc IgM) was present in 92 out of 95 subjects tested, indicating that hepatitis D virus and hepatitis B virus infections had been acquired simultaneously. Hepatitis D virus markers were present in three out of four patients with fulminant hepatitis, and in 80 of 223 (36%) with mild or moderate hepatitis compared with four of 29 (14%) of those who were asymptomatic. These proportional differences were significant (p less than 0.001). Hepatitis D virus markers were present in twice as many patients positive for anti-HBc IgM requiring admission to hospital with acute hepatitis compared with outpatients attending a drug treatment centre. Tests on one patient showed complete disappearance of HBsAg, but hepatitis D antigen (HDAg or delta antigen) and hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) were still present in serum samples. All five patients with chronic active hepatitis had hepatitis D antibody (anti-HD) compared with seven of 24 (29%) with chronic persistent hepatitis (p = 0.008). Blocking anti-HD persisted for long periods after simultaneous infections with hepatitis B virus and hepatitis D virus but at lower titres than in patients with chronic liver disease.