Hepatitis D (Delta agent)

Definition

Hepatitis D is a viral infection caused by the hepatitis D virus (previously called the Delta agent). It causes symptoms only in people who also have hepatitis B infection.

Alternative Names

Delta agent

Causes

Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is found only in people who carry the hepatitis B virus. HDV may make liver disease worse in people who have either recent (acute) or long-term (chronic) hepatitis B. It can even cause symptoms in people who carry hepatitis B virus but who never had symptoms.

Hepatitis D infects about 15 million people worldwide. It occurs in a small number of people who carry hepatitis B.

Risk factors include:

Symptoms

Hepatitis D may make the symptoms of hepatitis B worse.

Symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

You may need the following tests:

Treatment

Many of the medicines used to treat hepatitis B are not helpful for treating hepatitis D.

You may receive a medicine called alpha interferon for up to 12 months if you have a long-term HDV infection. A liver transplant for end-stage chronic hepatitis B may be effective.

Outlook (Prognosis)

People with an acute HDV infection most often get better over 2 to 3 weeks. Liver enzyme levels return to normal within 16 weeks.

About 1 in 10 of those who are infected may develop long-term (chronic) liver inflammation (hepatitis).

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of hepatitis B.

Prevention

Steps to prevent the condition include:

Adults who are at high risk for hepatitis B infection and all children should get this vaccine. If you do not get Hepatitis B, you cannot get Hepatitis D.

References

Alves VAF. Acute viral hepatitis. In: Saxena R, ed. Practical Hepatic Pathology: A Diagnostic Approach. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 13.

Ghany MG. Hepatitis D. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 81.

Murray PR, Rosenthal KS, Pfaller MA. Hepatitis viruses. In: Murray PR, Rosenthal KS, Pfaller MA, eds. Medical Microbiology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 55.

Thio CL, Hawkins C. Hepatitis delta virus. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 146.


Review Date: 10/27/2020
Reviewed By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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