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Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis D virus. It can propagate only when the hepatitis B virus is also present. Approximately 15 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis D.

Transmission

Hepatitis D can be found in the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and other body fluids of infected persons. Transmission happens when infected body fluid enters another person’s body, but hepatitis D will not remain in the body unless hepatitis B is also present. The virus is most commonly transmitted in the same ways that hepatitis B is transmitted:

  • Sex with an infected partner
  • Contact with the blood of an infected person
  • Sharing of needles, syringes, razors, or toothbrushes with an infected person
  • Maternal-infant transmission during childbirth

There are two types of hepatitis D infection:

  • Co-infection, in which a person is infected with hepatitis D and hepatitis B at the same time
  • Superinfection, in which a person who is already infected with chronic hepatitis B is subsequently infected with hepatitis D

Hepatitis D is not transmitted through shaking hands, coughing, sneezing, breastfeeding, or sharing cups and utensils.

Symptoms

Symptoms include the following:

  • Jaundice
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Joint pain

Diagnosis

Health care providers review symptoms and can diagnose hepatitis D with a blood test, which will reveal the presence of antibodies to the hepatitis D virus.

Treatment

The acute form of the hepatitis D virus is more likely to disappear on its own in co-infection cases, when hepatitis B and hepatitis D are contracted simultaneously. Fewer than 5 percent of people co-infected will develop chronic hepatitis D.

In superinfection cases, in which a person with chronic hepatitis B subsequently contracts hepatitis D, up to 80 percent of people will develop chronic hepatitis D. These cases may result in severe chronic hepatitis D that often progresses to cirrhosis (end-stage liver disease) or cancer of the liver. The drug interferon may be helpful in treating disease conditions in some patients.

Prevention

Because hepatitis D requires the presence of hepatitis B to propagate, the best way to prevent hepatitis D infection is to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.

However, there is no vaccine to prevent those who already have developed chronic hepatitis B from contracting hepatitis D. The best course of action for hepatitis B carriers is to avoid the high-risk behaviors associated with hepatitis D superinfection, including

  • Sex with an infected partner
  • Contact with the blood of an infected person
  • Sharing of needles, syringes, razors, or toothbrushes with an infected person

 

Source

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, USA.