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The role of circulating hepatitis B antigen/antibody immune complexes in the pathogenesis of vascular and hepatic manifestations in polyarteritis nodosa
  1. Christian G. Trepo,
  2. Arie J. Zuckerman,
  3. Richard C. Bird,
  4. Alfred M. Prince
  1. University of Lyons, New York Blood Center and Cornell University
  2. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine


    To investigate further the role of hepatitis B antigen (HBs Ag) and specific immune complexes in polyarteritis, sera from 55 histologically confirmed cases were tested for the presence of hepatitis B antigen-associated particles and hepatitis B-antibody (anti HBs) by solid phase radio-immunoassay, electron microscopy, and passive haemagglutination. Results of these findings have been correlated with the clinical course of the disease.

    HBs Ag was detected in 30 patients (54·5%) and anti HBs in 13/45 (28%). Subtyping in 20 patients revealed that 11 were Y and 9 D. Thirty-seven cases (69%) demonstrated either HBs Ag or anti HBs and 5/45 (11%) had both. Electron microscopic examination showed 20 nm spherical and tubular particles in sera of 20/27 patients with 42 nm particles in 11 cases and clumped particles in 12 (60%).

    No correlation was found between detection of immune complexes and liver disease whereas the presence of coexisting hepatitis B antigen and antibody or aggregated particles was restricted to cases of active vasculitis. Seroconversion or the presence of hepatitis B antibody alone was associated with improved prognosis. Circulating hepatitis B antigen antibody complexes may be responsible for vasculitis or polyarteritis but do not appear to be pathogenic for the liver.

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