The reported prevalence of occult hepatitis B infection (OBI) varies widely: from < 1% to as high as 89.5% in HIV patients. Among patients with chronic hepatitis, the prevalence—again—ranges widely, from 0% to 52% but is highest in patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC).
The clinical impact of OBI on patients with CHC has been extensively investigated, say researchers from the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in New Delhi, India, but the available data are conflicting. In fact, when they conducted their study to assess the prevalence of OBI and evaluate its impact on clinical outcomes and response to antiviral therapy in CHC, the findings were “largely inconclusive.”
The study included 80 patients, of whom 32 (40%) had seropositive OBI. Hepatitis C virus genotype information was available for 59 patients, revealing that genotype 3 was most common.
However, analysis of clinical, biochemical, histopathologic and treatment response based on seropositivity and semiquantitative estimate of anti-HBc did not yield statistically significant results. Plasma samples of 14 were reactive for anti-HBc, 12 for anti-HBs, and 6 for both antibodies. Hepatitis B virus DNA (34 IU/mL) was detected in the plasma sample of only 1 patient by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. Therefore, the researchers say, the prevalence of OBI was 1.25%.
Anti-HBc total antibody levels did not influence clinical outcomes and response to directly acting antiviral therapy. Nor did genotype make a significant difference: 90.7% of genotype 3 patients and 92.8% of genotype 1 patients attained sustained virologic response.
More prospective studies should be conducted, the researchers urge, to further explore “this seemingly enigmatic issue.”
Bhatia M, Gupta E, Choudhary MC, Jindal A, Sarin SK. J Lab Physicians. 2018;10(3):304-308.