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Gastroenterology. 1994 Apr;106(4):1006-15.

Distinguishing between acute and symptomatic chronic hepatitis B virus infection.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California.



Differentiating between an acute hepatitis B (AH-B) infection and an acute exacerbation of a chronic hepatitis B (CH-B) infection can present a problem for the clinician. The only current serological method of distinguishing between acute and symptomatic chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is the immunoglobulin M antibody to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) assay, which can be problematic. Therefore, in an attempt to better distinguish between acute and chronic HBV infection, sera from 26 patients with AH-B and 53 patients with CH-B were compared in a variety of experimental immunoassays.


Experimental assays have been designed to detect free antibody to hepatitis B e antigen (anti-HBe), hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)/anti-HBe immune complexes (ICs), and hepatitis B surface antigens (HBsAg)/antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen (anti-HBs) in the presence of excess antigen. An additional assay was developed to detect a novel anti-HBc specificity, designated antibody to woodchuck hepatitis virus (anti-HBcW), which cross-reacts with the core antigen of the woodchuck hepatitis virus.


Sera from patients with CH-B showed significantly higher levels of free anti-HBe, HBeAg/anti-HBe ICs, and HBsAg/anti-HBs ICs compared with AH-B patient sera. Furthermore, patients with CH-B consistently produced high titer anti-HBcW, whereas patients with AH-B produced little or no anti-HBcW antibody.


The serology of AH-B infection and symptomatic CH-B infection can be distinguished using a variety of experimental immunoassays in addition to the immunoglobulin M anti-HBc assay.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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