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Diagnosis of hepatitis D virus infection

Francesco Negro, MD
Anna SF Lok, MD
Section Editor
Rafael Esteban, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer Mitty, MD, MPH


The hepatitis D virus (HDV, also called the delta virus) is a defective pathogen that requires the presence of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) for infection. The HD virion is composed of an outer lipoprotein envelope made of the surface antigen of the HBV (HBsAg) and an inner ribonucleoprotein structure in which the HDV genome resides. The HDV genome consists of a single stranded RNA which is folded as a rod-like structure through internal base-pairing (figure 1). It is complexed with the only HDV-encoded antigen, the HDAg [1].

HDAg can elicit a specific immune response in the infected host, consisting of antibodies of the IgM and IgG class (anti-HDV). In HDV infected individuals, the timing of appearance and level of HDV RNA, HDAg, and anti-HDV in serum allow the three HDV-related clinical entities to be discriminated:

Acute HBV/HDV coinfection

Acute HDV superinfection of a chronic HBV carrier

Chronic HDV infection

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 09, 2017.
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