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J Am Soc Nephrol. 1997 Sep;8(9):1443-7.

Hepatitis B virus DNA in serum and blood cells of hepatitis B surface antigen-negative hemodialysis patients and staff.

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  • 1Hepatology Unit, Fundación Jiménez Díaz, Madrid, Spain.


Patients undergoing chronic hemodialysis, as well as dialysis staff members, are at high risk of infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV). We have analyzed by PCR the presence of HBV DNA in serum and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from 33 hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-negative hemodialysis patients and 24 dialysis unit staff members; eight of the 24 staff members had an acute hepatitis B resolved 13 to 21 yr before. HBV DNA was detected in serum of 19 (58%) patients (12 of 17 with and 7 of 16 without anti-HBV antibodies). HBV DNA was found in PBMC of 18 (54%) patients (13 of 17 with and 5 of 16 without anti-HBV antibodies). In the staff members, serum HBV DNA was found only in the individuals who suffered a previous acute hepatitis (P < 0.005). HBV DNA was detected in PBMC of four of six staff members (all with previous acute hepatitis). In two HBV DNA-positive PBMC samples, viral RNA was detected by reverse transcription-PCR. To ascertain whether the HBV DNA detected in serum was encapsulated, seven HBV DNA-positive serum samples were digested with DNase before PCR. After treatment, HBV DNA remained detectable in four cases. In conclusion, HBV DNA in serum and PBMC is detectable in a high proportion of HBsAg-negative hemodialysis patients and may persist several years after a resolved acute hepatitis B. The viral DNA is encapsulated and remains transcriptionally active in PBMC. In the anti-HBs-negative patients, HBV DNA is, at the present time, the only means for diagnosing a past HBV hepatitis.

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