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Hepatology. 2004 Nov;40(5):1072-7.

Occult hepatitis B virus infection in a North American adult hemodialysis patient population.

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Section of Hepatology, Department of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. <>


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections continue to occur in adult hemodialysis units. A possible contributing factor is the presence of occult HBV (serum hepatitis B surface antigen [HBsAg] negative but HBV DNA positive). Two hundred forty-one adult hemodialysis patients were screened for occult HBV. HBV DNA testing was performed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with 2 independent primer sets (core promoter and surface). Two (0.8%) of the 241 patients were HBsAg positive. Of the remaining 239 HBsAg-negative patients, 9 (3.8%) were HBV DNA positive. Viral loads in these individuals were low (10(2)-10(4) viral copies/mL). Seven of the 9 (78%) were nt 587 mutation (sG145R mutant) positive. Demographic, biochemical, and HBV serological testing did not help to identify those with occult HBV. In conclusion, the prevalence of occult HBV in adult hemodialysis patients in this North American urban center is approximately 4 to 5 times higher than standard HBsAg testing would suggest. The majority of these infections are associated with low viral loads and a high prevalence of the sG145R mutant. Finally, the demographic, biochemical, and/or serological features of HBV DNA-positive subjects do not distinguish these individuals from the remainder of the dialysis patient population.

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