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J Viral Hepat. 2012 Feb;19(2):e170-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2893.2011.01508.x. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Hepatic iron overload is common in chronic hepatitis B and is more severe in patients coinfected with hepatitis D virus.

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Digestive Diseases, Hepatology and Clinical Nutrition Department, Dell'Angelo Hospital, Venice, Italy.


Hepatic iron overload has been described in chronic hepatitis C as a cofactor affecting fibrosis progression. Data in patients with chronic hepatitis B infection are scarce. We investigated hepatic iron deposits and serum iron indices in 205 consecutive patients with hepatitis B and compensated liver disease. Mean age of the patients was 42.4 ± 12.4 years and 72.5% were males. Coinfection with hepatitis delta virus (HDV) was present in 8.8%. At least one of the serum iron indices was elevated in 41.5% of cases. Hepatic iron deposits were detected in 35.1% of patients, most of them being minimal (grade I) (59.7%) or mild (grade II) (27.8%). Variables significantly associated with hepatic iron deposits were male gender (P = 0.001), serum ferritin (P = 0.008), γGT (P = 0.05) and alkaline phosphatase (P = 0.05) levels. By multivariate analysis hepatic iron deposits correlated with serum ferritin [odds ratio (OR) 1.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05-1.4, P = 0.002]. Presence of mild-moderate (grades II and III) hepatic iron deposits could be excluded with high negative predictive value (90%) when serum ferritin was within normal values. A significant correlation between coinfection with HDV and hepatic iron deposits was also found (OR 4.23, 95% CI 1.52-11.82, P = 0.003). When compared to monoinfected cases, HDV positive patients had more elevated γGT (P = 0.03), more advanced fibrosis and more severe iron deposits (P < 0.0001). In conclusion, in well-compensated chronic hepatitis B infection, hepatic iron deposits and elevation of serum iron indices are common, especially in male gender and in patients coinfected with HDV. As HBV/HDV liver disease is generally more rapidly progressive than that caused by HBV monoinfection, we speculate that iron overload may be one of the factors contributing to the severity of liver disease.

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