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J Med Virol. 1997 Aug;52(4):399-405.

Hepatitis C virus is frequently coinfected with serum marker-negative hepatitis B virus: probable replication promotion of the former by the latter as demonstrated by in vitro cotransfection.

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Department of Pathology, Nihon University School of Medicine, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo, Japan.


Patients with hepatitis C have been reported occasionally to be coinfected with serum marker-negative (silent) hepatitis B virus (HBV). The frequency and significance of such coinfection were investigated. Thirty patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections (10 acute, 10 chronic, 10 cirrhotic) were selected randomly; the acute cases were without serum hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) and anti-hepatitis B core IgM, and the chronic cases were without HBsAg. A nested polymerase chain reaction for the X open reading frame was used to amplify HBV DNA in serum, and immunoperoxidase staining was carried out on liver biopsy specimens. Nucleotide sequencing was carried out to characterize the amplified HBV DNAs. In order to clarify the possibility that the silent HBV mutant promotes HCV replication in the liver, the full-length HCV RNA and the cloned silent HBV DNA dimer were cotransfected into an established cell line, HuH-7, and the amount of secreted HCV RNA was quantified serially. The target HBV DNA was amplified in 26 (86.7%) of the 30 patients. Subsequent direct nucleotide sequencing in 9 selected patients revealed an 8-nucleotide deletion, characteristic of a silent HBV mutant. Immunostaining revealed hepatitis B surface antigen in 15 (50.0%). Cotransfected silent HBV DNA augmented the secretion of HCV RNA by up to 5-fold in comparison with HCV RNA transfection alone. In conclusion, HCV is coinfected frequently with the silent HBV mutant and the latter probably promotes the replication of the former in the liver.

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