One hundred and six consecutive chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) carriers were studied for the prevalence of delta markers in serum and tissue, and the clinical and histological features of those with and without delta infection were compared. Twenty (18.9%) patients were positive for anti-delta in serum or delta antigen in the liver or both. They presented at a younger age (30.3 v 38 years). All of them were symptomatic at the time of biopsy, in contrast to 35% of patients without delta infection who were not symptomatic. Those with delta infection had higher serum transaminase values and showed more severe liver damage on biopsy: chronic active hepatitis in 45% and cirrhosis in 55%. There was more pronounced disease activity both within the parenchyma and in the portal and periportal zones. The histological diagnosis of the 86 patients without delta infection included minimal disease (10%), chronic persistent hepatitis (9%), chronic active hepatitis (62%), and cirrhosis (19%). Delta infection in chronic HBV carriers is associated with a more active and progressive liver disease.
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