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Rev Infect Dis. 1991 Jan-Feb;13(1):52-5.

Protracted outbreak of severe delta hepatitis: experience in an isolated Amerindian population of the Upper Orinoco basin.

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Instituto de Medicina Tropical, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas.


In an investigation of a 21-year-old epidemic of severe hepatitis, 80 serum samples were studied from two isolated Yanomami Amerindian populations of the Upper Orinoco basin in Venezuela. Of the assayed samples, 30.6% were positive for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), 53.7% were considered to reflect immunity to infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV), and only 16.2% were believed to reflect susceptibility to HBV infection; 82.5% of the samples tested positive for any marker of HBV infection. Thirty-one (39.7%) of 78 samples were also positive for antibody to delta antigen, including 91.6% of those positive for HBsAg and 20.9% of those immune to HBV. Our findings provide evidence of a high prevalence of HBV infection in this population. Furthermore, the high prevalence of antibody to delta antigen strongly suggests that coinfections with HBV or superinfections with hepatitis delta virus (HDV) in HBV carriers may be an important factor in the occurrence of an unusually high number of cases of fulminant hepatitis and of chronic liver disease. Serum samples obtained at the beginning of the outbreak 13 years earlier from 36 selected cases in the same population revealed a high rate of HBV infection (96.5%). All six HBsAg carriers from whom enough serum remained to be assayed were positive for antibody to delta antigen. Our findings indicate that the outbreak coincided with the introduction of HDV into a population with an already-high prevalence of HBV infection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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