Occult Hepatitis B virus infection (Hepatitis B virus-DNA detection in Hepatitis B surface antigen-negative individuals) may cause acute and/or chronic liver disease.
Dr Minuka and colleagues from Canada documented the prevalence of occult Hepatitis B virus infection in an isolated, North American Inuit community.
487 individual with Hepatitis B surface antigen-negative sera (61% of the community population) were available for Hepatitis B virus-DNA testing.
The researchers reported that 80 (Group 1) had serologic evidence of resolved Hepatitis B virus infection and 407 (Group 2) were Hepatitis B virus -seronegative.
The research team detected Hepatitis B virus-DNA in 14 of the 80 subjects (18%) and S-variants in 12 of the 14 (86%) samples from Group 1.
| S-variants are present in the majority of individuals with occult Hepatitis B virus infection|
|Journal of Hepatology|
In Group 2, Hepatitis B virus-DNA was detected in 33 of the 407 samples (8%) and S-variants in 17 out of the 33 samples (52%).
The investigators noted that in all cases (Groups 1 and 2) viral loads were low (less than 105 viral copies/ml) and clinical or biochemical features did not distinguish Hepatitis B virus-DNA positive from negative individuals.
However, the researchers observed that S-variants were more common in older age groups.
Dr Minuka concludes, “The results of this study indicate that in this community-based population the prevalence of occult Hepatitis B virus infection is 18% in those with serologic evidence of previous Hepatitis B virus infection and 8% in Hepatitis B virus seronegative individuals.”
“This study also shows that age, gender and liver biochemistry findings do not identify those with occult Hepatitis B virus and S-variants are present in the majority of individuals with occult Hepatitis B virus infection.”