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J Hepatol. 2008 May;48(5):743-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2008.01.023. Epub 2008 Feb 13.

Occult hepatitis B virus in liver tissue of individuals without hepatic disease.

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Unit of Clinical and Molecular Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Messina University Hospital, Via Consolare Valeria, Messina, Italy.



While many data are available concerning occult hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in patients with hepatic disorders, there is little information about this cryptic infection in individuals without liver disease. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of occult HBV in the general population by examining liver specimens from a large series of HBV-surface-antigen negative individuals with no clinical and biochemical evidence of liver disease.


The presence of HBV DNA was evaluated by testing, through polymerase chain reaction techniques, DNA extracts from 98 liver-disease-free individuals who underwent liver resection or needle biopsy during abdominal surgery. Sixteen of them were anti-HBV-core antigen (anti-HBc) positive and 82 were HBV serum-marker negative. All patients were negative for antibody to hepatitis C virus.


Occult HBV infection was revealed in 16 of the 98 cases (16.3%). In particular, 10/16 anti-HBc positive (62.5%) versus 6/82 (7.3%) HBV-seronegative individuals were occult carriers (p<0.0001).


This study revealed that about 1/6 of the Italian general population might be carriers of occult HBV infection, and this condition is significantly associated with the anti-HBc positive status.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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