1Center for Hepatitis C, WellStar Atlanta Medical Center, Atlanta, United States.
2Department of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, United States.
3Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, United States.
First discovered over 40 years ago, the hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is a unique RNA virus, requiring hepatitis B virus (HBV) antigens for its assembly, replication, and transmission. HBV and HDV can be acquired at the same time (coinfection) or HDV infection can occur in persons with chronic HBV (superinfection). Screening guidelines for HDV are inconsistent. While some guidelines recommend universal screening for all people with HBV, others recommend risk-based screening. Estimates of the global HDV prevalence range from 4.5% to 14.6% among persons with HBV; thus, there may be up to 72 million individuals with HDV worldwide. HDV is the most severe form of viral hepatitis. Compared to HBV monoinfection, HDV coinfection increases the risk of cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, hepatic decompensation, mortality, and necessity for liver transplant. Despite the severity of HDV, there are few treatment options. Pegylated interferon (off-label use) has long been the only available treatment, although bulevirtide is conditionally approved in some European countries. There are many potential treatments in development, but as yet, there are few effective and safe therapies for HDV infection. In conclusion, given the severity of HDV disease and the paucity of treatments, there is a great unmet need for HDV therapies.