Significance of occult HBV infection in patients with chronic hepatitis C.
ABSTRACT To determine the frequency of occurrence of occult Hepatitis B infection in chronic hepatitis C patients and its impact (if any) on the effectivity of standard chronic hepatitis C treatment. Design: Quasi-experimental study.
The study was conducted at the Department of Medicine, Military Hospital, Rawalpindi, and Virology Department, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Rawalpindi, for a period of nine months from January 2003 to September 2003.
This study was conducted on 30 HBsAg negative patients with chronic hepatitis C liver disease who were receiving combination therapy with interferon and ribavirin. Occult hepatitis B infection was assessed by carrying out HBV DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in the sera of these patients. Markers of previous hepatitis B infection i.e; anti-HBs and total anti-HBc antibodies were also tested. Response to treatment for hepatitis C (with interferon and ribavirin) was assessed at the end of six months of therapy by measuring ALT levels and HCV RNA by PCR in the serum.
In our study only one patient (3.33%) was found to be harbouring HBV DNA in the serum detectable by PCR, with markers of previous HBV infection (both anti HBc antibodies and anti HBs antibodies were positive). A total 14 patients (46.67%) had markers of previous HBV infection, while 16 patients (53.33%) had no such seromarkers. Twenty-five out of 30 patients (83.33%) responded to treatment and 5 (16.66%) turned out to be non-responders. The single case of occult hepatitis B detected in this study responded to hepatitis C treatment.
Occult hepatitis B is not a common occurrence in chronic hepatitis C patients and it did not alter the outcome of treatment for hepatitis C in our study.