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Hepatitis D

Rare but severe liver disease caused by the hepatitis D virus, which only affects persons who are also infected with hepatitis B.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and National Library of Medicine)

About Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is spread through contact with infected blood. This disease only occurs at the same time as infection with hepatitis B or in people who are already infected with hepatitis B.

Who is at risk for hepatitis D?

Anyone infected with hepatitis B is at risk for hepatitis D. Injection drug users have the highest risk. Others at risk include

  • people who live with or have sex with a person infected with hepatitis D
  • people who received a transfusion of blood or blood products before 1987

How can hepatitis D be prevented?

People not already infected with hepatitis B should receive the hepatitis B vaccine. Other preventive measures include avoiding exposure to infected blood, contaminated needles, and an infected person's personal items such as toothbrushes, razors, and nail clippers.

What is the treatment for hepatitis D?

Chronic hepatitis D is usually treated with pegylated interferon, although other potential treatments are under study. NIH - National Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Interferon alpha for patients with chronic hepatitis D

Hepatitis D virus is unique in that it can only infect a person who is already infected by hepatitis B virus. Chronic hepatitis D is a difficult‐to‐treat infection. Several antiviral and immunomodulating agents have been evaluated in treatment of hepatitis D. However, with the exception of interferon, all of them proved ineffective. This meta analysis of six randomised clinical trials of interferon shows that even Interferon alpha is not an ideal drug for this infection. Among the 169 participants included in primary meta analysis, interferon alpha induced loss of virus, normalisation of liver tests, and improvement in the liver biopsy in more patients compared with those who were left untreated. Unfortunately, most of these patients did not have sustained response after stopping treatment. Additional analysis of two trials comparing a higher dose of interferon alpha with lower dose among randomly assigned participants showed no significant difference in outcome between the two groups. There were differences in dosage and duration of interferon alpha used among included trials as well as some other methodological weakness which places a high risk of bias in this meta analysis.

Meta-analysis: antiviral treatment for hepatitis D

BACKGROUND: There is no satisfactory treatment for patients with hepatitis D (HDV).

Standard and pegylated interferon therapy of HDV infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis

BACKGROUND: Hepatitis D virus (HDV) infection is characterized by rapidly progressive liver disease with adverse prognosis in most patients. Although interferon is the only approved anti-HDV therapy, evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of its various regimens is either old or scattered.

See all (10)

Summaries for consumers

Interferon alpha for patients with chronic hepatitis D

Hepatitis D virus is unique in that it can only infect a person who is already infected by hepatitis B virus. Chronic hepatitis D is a difficult‐to‐treat infection. Several antiviral and immunomodulating agents have been evaluated in treatment of hepatitis D. However, with the exception of interferon, all of them proved ineffective. This meta analysis of six randomised clinical trials of interferon shows that even Interferon alpha is not an ideal drug for this infection. Among the 169 participants included in primary meta analysis, interferon alpha induced loss of virus, normalisation of liver tests, and improvement in the liver biopsy in more patients compared with those who were left untreated. Unfortunately, most of these patients did not have sustained response after stopping treatment. Additional analysis of two trials comparing a higher dose of interferon alpha with lower dose among randomly assigned participants showed no significant difference in outcome between the two groups. There were differences in dosage and duration of interferon alpha used among included trials as well as some other methodological weakness which places a high risk of bias in this meta analysis.

Bile acids may improve liver biochemistry of patients with hepatitis B or C, but there is insufficient evidence about long‐term beneficial effects

Viral hepatitis causes significant morbidity and mortality. Based on this Cochrane systematic review, bile acids may decrease serum transaminase activities in patients with acute hepatitis B, chronic hepatitis B, or chronic hepatitis C. However, bile acids have no effects in eradicating viral markers. There is insufficient evidence either to support or to refute effects on the long‐term outcomes that include hepatocellular carcinoma, decompensated cirrhosis, and/or liver related mortality.

Liver (Hepatocellular) Cancer Prevention (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about factors that may influence the risk of developing hepatocellular cancer and about research aimed at the prevention of this disease.

More about Hepatitis D

Photo of an adult

Also called: Delta hepatitis, Delta infection, Hepatitis delta, Hepatitis D infection, Hep D

See Also: Hepatitis B

Related articles:
Hepatitis B Vaccine

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