Korean J Gastroenterol.  2013 Sep;62(3):148-153. 10.4166/kjg.2013.62.3.148.

Occult Hepatitis B Virus Infection: Transmission and Reactivation

Affiliations
  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, CHA Bundang Medical Center, CHA University, Seongnam, Korea. sghwang@cha.ac.kr

Abstract

Occult HBV infection (OBI) is defined as presence of HBV DNA in the liver tissue in patients with serologically undetectable HBsAg. There are differences in virologic and serological profiles of OBI. Majority of OBI are positive for anti-HBs and/or anti-HBc and minor portion are negative for all HBV markers. However, there are no HBV mutations in the surface and its regulatory regions. HBV infection persists by the presence of covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) within the infected hepatocytes, which serves as a reservoir for future infection. OBI increases the risk of HBV transmission through transfusion, hemodialysis, and organ transplantation. Therefore effective measures should be employed to screen OBI. Antiviral therapy is needed in HBsAg-negative transplant patients who are anti-HBc positive to prevent the recurrence of HBV infection. Since HBV replication is strongly suppressed by immune surveillance system in OBI patients, immunosuppression results in massive HBV replication. This leads to acute hepatitis and sometimes mortality when immune surveillance is recovered after stopping immunosuppressive drugs/anticancer chemotherapy. Therefore, narrow surveillance is required to recognize the viral reactivation and start antiviral agents during immunosuppressive therapy/anticancer chemotherapy in patients with OBI.

Keyword

Hepatitis B virus; Occult infection; Reactivation; Immunosuppression; Hepatitis B surface antigens
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