Hepatitis D

What is Hepatitis Delta?

Hepatitis Delta (HDV) is one of several infections that can cause damage to the liver. (Others include hepatitis A, B, C). HDV harms liver cells causing inflammation (swelling). This swelling interferes with the normal function of the organ. Progression of the disease leads to severe hardening (fibrosis) and scarring (cirrhosis) of the liver and can lead to liver failure.

  1. Acute Hepatitis D – An acute HDV infection is short-term. The symptoms of this infection are the same, or more severe, than any type of viral hepatitis. In some people, their immune system can resolve this infection and the virus goes away.
  • Chronic Hepatitis D – A chronic HDV infection is long-lasting. This occurs when the immune system is not able to fight off the infection. Those with chronic Hepatitis B (HBV) and HDV will develop complications more often and more rapidly than HBV alone.

Relationship of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis D

HDV is known as a “satellite virus” or an “incomplete virus” because it can only infect people who are also infected with the hepatitis B virus.

  1. Superinfection occurs when someone who is already living with HBV becomes infected with HDV. This is the most common infection and it poses a greater chance of becoming a chronic condition and progressing to cirrhosis.
  • Coinfection refers to the simultaneous infection of HBV and HDV. This is the least common form of the infection and usually resolves on its own. There is still the possibility of coinfection becoming chronic.

The complicating factor of HDV is that it quickens the progression of liver damage to earlier development of decompensation (worsening symptoms), cirrhosis, and, in some cases, liver cancer.

What are the symptoms of Hepatitis D?

Signs of HDV begin to occur one to two months following the initial exposure. The symptoms are similar to those of other viral hepatitis infections:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Darkening of the urine
  • Lightening of the stool
  • Jaundice
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Joint pain

How is Hepatitis D diagnosed?

A simple blood test is used to first diagnose HBV. If a person tests positive, an additional blood test is used to determine if HDV is present. The American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) suggests a total antibody test for those with chronic HBV who are at a high risk.

It is important to be tested for HDV because the presence of this virus will require alternate treatment options.

How is Hepatitis D treated?

The primary treatment for HDV is a medication called pegylated interferon. Currently, it is helpful for about 30% of cases. Additional medications are being developed and tested.

How is Hepatitis D prevented?

As HDV is dependent upon the HBV virus, the best way to prevent infection with Hepatitis B virus is by getting the Hepatitis B virus vaccine. It stimulates the body’s natural immune system to make antibodies – a substance found in the blood that protects you from disease, in this case, against the Hepatitis B virus.

You can reduce your risk of getting the Hepatitis B virus, and possibly the Hepatitis D virus by taking the following precautions:

  • Use sterile needles and equipment for tattoos or body piercings.
  • Use a new latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex if you don’t know the health status of your partner.
  • Get help to stop using drugs. If you can’t stop, use sterile needles, and don’t share your needles or other drug paraphernalia.
  • Do not share razors, toothbrushes, or other personal items with someone that has Hepatitis B virus.

Are clinical trials available for Hepatitis D?

Yes, there are clinical trials available for those with Hepatitis D.

Clinical trials are research studies that test how well new medical approaches work in people. Before an experimental treatment for any disease can be tested on human subjects in a clinical trial, it first must show benefit in laboratory testing or animal research studies. Only the most promising treatments are then moved into clinical trials, with the goal of identifying new ways to safely and effectively prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat disease.

The following websites include information about clinical trials. Always consult with your physician before signing up for a clinical trial.

What questions should I ask my doctor:

  • What further testing will I need?
  • Will I need a liver transplant?
  • What precautions do I need to take around my family and coworkers?
  • When can I begin to look into clinical trials?
  • What side effects could I experience taking the medications?
  • Will I need to be hospitalized?
  • What lifestyle adjustments will I need to make regarding diet, exercise, supplements, etc.?

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Last updated on November 10th, 2022 at 12:12 pm

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