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J Hepatol. 2010 Nov;53(5):834-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2010.06.008. Epub 2010 Jul 29.

Outcome of chronic delta hepatitis in Italy: a long-term cohort study.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Casa Sollievo Sofferenza Hospital, IRCCS, San Giovanni, Rotondo, Italy.



To investigate the impact of HDV infection on morbidity and mortality of patients.


This was a retrospective study on 188 patients that underwent a program of periodic surveillance until 2008. The demographic data, stage of liver disease, treatment efficacy, development of liver complications (ascites, oesophageal bleeding, encephalopathy), and survival were registered. A Cox regression analysis was carried out to determine the impact of viral and patient features on survival.


At baseline, 126 patients (67%) tested positive for serum IgM anti-HDV antibodies, 171 (91%) for anti-HBe, 175 (93%) for serum HDV-RNA, and 61 (33%) for serum HBV-DNA. Eighty-two patients (43%) had chronic hepatitis at histology; the remaining 106 individuals had a clinical/histological diagnosis of cirrhosis. Ninety-six patients received interferon (n = 90) or lamivudine (n = 6) therapy, and 27 of them (30%) attained a sustained response. During follow up, 21 patients with chronic hepatitis progressed to cirrhosis. Of the 127 cirrhotic patients, hepatic decompensation occurred in 42 patients (33%) and hepatocellular carcinoma in 17 (13%). The 5- and 10-year survival free of events were 96.8% and 81.9%, respectively, for patients with chronic hepatitis, and 83.9% and 59.4% for cirrhotics (p<0.01). At multivariate analysis, lack of antiviral therapy (p = 0.01), cirrhosis at presentation (p<0.01), and male sex (p = 0.03) independently predicted a worse outcome.


HDV liver disease lasts several decades. Half of all patients who develop cirrhosis later will advance to liver failure. At present, interferon therapy is recommended as soon as possible to slow or alter the natural course of liver disease.

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