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World J Gastroenterol. 2016 Oct 21;22(39):8720-8734.

Update on occult hepatitis B virus infection.

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Manoochehr Makvandi, Health Research Institute, Infectious and Tropical Disease Research Center, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, Ahvaz 15794-61357, Iran.


The event of mutations in the surface antigen gene of hepatitis B virus (HBV) results in undetectable hepatitis B surface antigen with positive/negative anti-hepatitis B core (anti-HBc) antibody status in serum and this phenomenon is named occult hepatitis B infection (OBI). The presence of anti-HBc antibody in serum is an important key for OBI tracking, although about 20% of OBI cases are negative for anti-HBc antibody. The diagnosis of OBI is mainly based on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and real-time PCR assays. However, real-time PCR is a more reliable method than PCR. OBI is a great issue for the public health problem and a challenge for the clinical entity worldwide. The persistence of OBI may lead to the development of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. With regard to OBI complications, the screening of HBV DNA by the highly sensitive molecular means should be implemented for: (1) patients with a previous history of chronic or acute HBV infection; (2) patients co-infected with hepatitis C virus/human immunodeficiency virus; (3) patients undergoing chemotherapy or anti-CD20 therapy; (4) recipients of organ transplant; (5) blood donors; (6) organ transplant donors; (7) thalassemia and hemophilia patients; (8) health care workers; (9) patients with liver related disease (cryptogenic); (10) hemodialysis patients; (11) patients undergoing lamivudine or interferon therapy; and (12) children in time of HBV vaccination especially in highly endemic areas of HBV. Active HBV vaccination should be implemented for the close relatives of patients who are negative for OBI markers. Thus, the goal of this review is to evaluate the rate of OBI with a focus on status of high risk groups in different regions of the world.


Cryptogenic; Nested polymerase chain reaction; Occult hepatitis B infection; Real-time polymerase chain reaction

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