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Hepatitis D Co-Infection

Hepatitis D is a type of viral hepatitis caused by the hepatitis D virus (HDV), which needs the hepatitis B virus to exist. Only people who are already infected with hepatitis B can be infected with hepatitis D.

HDV Co-infection - occurs simultaneously when first infected with the hepatitis B virus.

HDV Super-infection - occurs in persons with an existing chronic hepatitis B infection.

HDV-HBV Co-infection

A co-infection may result in a more severe acute disease and a higher risk (2%-20%) of developing acute liver failure compared with those infected with HBV alone.

HDV-HBV Super-infection

Chronic HBV carriers who acquire HDV super-infections usually develop chronic HDV infection as well. Progression to cirrhosis is believed to be more common with HDV-HBV chronic infections.

Transmission - hepatitis D is spread the same way as hepatitis B:

  • Contact with infected blood
  • Unprotected sex.
  • Exposure to dirty needles (i.e. needlesticks, sharing drugs, tattoo parlors, body piercings).
  • From an infected woman to her newborn during birth.

Prevention - the only way to prevent a HDV infection is to prevent a hepatitis B infection!

Get the hepatitis B vaccine and reduce your risk.

Treatment and Management – there is really no effective treatment for HDV. For an acute HDV infection, only supportive care for symptoms can be provided. For a chronic HDV infection, some doctors may try interferon-alpha, but this may only slow disease progression. Ultimately, a liver transplant may be required.

Page last reviewed February 2014

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