Hepatitis D virus (HDV), sometimes known as the Delta Agent or Delta particle, is an infection which is linked to the presence of Hepatitis B (HBV). HDV cannot replicate and multiply without the presence of HBV infection.
The Hepatitis D virus can be contracted in 2 ways:
1. Co-infection: this is where an individual contracts HDV at the same time as contracting HBV
2. Super-infection: this is where an individual who is already infected with HBV (a chronic HBV carrier and therefore an individual who has not cleared the HBV infection) then becomes infected with HDV.
HDV infection is most commonly found in Eastern Europe, Middle East, parts of Central and South America, parts of Asia and Central Africa. Conversely infection rates of HDV are very low in most developed countries.
Since HDV infection exists only in the presence of HBV infection, the risks of contracting HDV and methods of spread are very similar to HBV. It is therefore a blood borne virus. Contact with infected blood or blood products, contaminated needles and other injecting equipment and unprotected sexual contact with an individual infected with HDV are the main risk factors for contracting this virus.
Co-infection with Hepatitis B and D viruses tends not to produce chronic disease but in those with chronic disease a very severe type of Hepatitis known as Fulminant Hepatitis is more likely than with Hepatitis B alone. Fulminant Hepatitis can be a life threatening condition.
Super-infection of an individual with chronic Hepatitis B with the Hepatitis D virus may lead to an increased risk of complications and progression of liver disease in the following ways:
- acute hepatitis becomes more likely in a previously healthy HBV carrier;
- an individual with mild hepatitis may go on to develop Fulminant Hepatitis;
- the risk of progression of liver disease becomes increased therefore increasing the chances of liver cirrhosis.
However, carriers of Hepatitis B who also have Hepatitis D have a reduced risk of cancer of the liver. This may be due to one of two reasons:
1. HDV may suppress the HBV infection;
2. HDV may lead to a rapid deterioration and progression of liver disease which may be fatal. The sufferer therefore dies before liver cancer can develop.
Symptoms of Hepatitis D infection are similar to Hepatitis B. As with Hepatitis B there maybe no symptoms in many individuals exposed to Hepatitis D. Others may develop flu like symptoms or jaundice. HDV is thought to have an incubation period of 3-12 weeks.
Diagnosis of HDV is by a blood test which detects HDV antibodies which are produced by the immune system. No vaccine at present exists for HDV but vaccinating against HBV will prevent HDV infection as HDV can not exist without HBV. However, those individuals already infected with HBV can not prevent contracting HDV.
Treatment of Hepatitis D is usually with high dose alpha-interferon which is also used to treat those with chronic hepatitis B.
How Long Will you stay in Hospital after your Hepatitis D?
Single Day In-patient Care