Delta agent (Hepatitis D)
Delta agent is a type of virus called hepatitis D that causes symptoms only in people who have a hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis D virus
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is only found in people who carry the hepatitis B virus. HDV may make a hepatitis B infection or existing hepatitis B liver disease worse. It can cause symptoms in people with hepatitis B virus who never had symptoms.
Hepatitis D infects about 15 million people worldwide. It occurs in 5% of people with hepatitis B.
Risk factors include:
- Having a hepatitis B infection in the past
- Carrying the hepatitis B virus
- Receiving many blood transfusions
- Intravenous (IV) drug abuse
- Men having intercourse with other men
- Being infected while pregnant (can pass the virus to the baby)
Hepatitis D may increase the severity of symptoms associated with all forms of hepatitis B.
Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- Dark-colored urine
Exams and Tests
- Liver enzymes are higher than normal.
- Anti-delta agent antibody is positive for HDV.
- Liver biopsy shows liver inflammation (hepatitis).
The treatment is the same as for hepatitis B. See hepatitis B.
Persons with long-term HDV infection may receive a medicine called alpha interferon or a liver transplant.
Persons with an acute HDV infection usually get better over 2 to 3 weeks. Liver enzyme levels return to normal within 16 weeks.
About 10% of those who are infected may develop long-term (chronic) liver inflammation (hepatitis).
- Chronic active hepatitis
- Fulminant hepatitis
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of hepatitis B occur.
Prompt recognition and treatment of hepatitis B infection can help prevent hepatitis D.
Avoid intravenous drug abuse. If you use IV drugs, avoid sharing needles.
A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis B. It should be considered by people who are at high risk for hepatitis B infection.
Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 5th ed. London: Churchill Livingstone; 2000:1870-1871.
Long SS, Pickering LK, Prober CG. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Elsevier; 2003:1097-1101.
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