1UNIR Health Sciences School & Medical Center, Madrid, Spain.
2Department of Internal Medicine, Puerta de Hierro Research Institute & University Hospital, Madrid, Spain.
3Medicine Department, Alicante University Hospital & Alicante Institute of Health and Biomedical Research (ISABIAL), Alicante, Spain.
4Public Health Regional Laboratory, Hospital Isabel Zendal, Madrid, Spain.
Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is a defective agent that only infects individuals with hepatitis B virus (HBV). Around 5-10% of chronic hepatitis B patients worldwide are superinfected with HDV, which means 15-25 million people. Hepatitis delta is the most severe of all chronic viral hepatitis, leading to cirrhosis, liver cancer and/or transplantation in most patients. Despite it, many HDV patients remain undiagnosed. The only treatment available until recently was peginterferon alfa, with poor results and significant side effects. The recent approval of bulevirtide, a lipopeptide that blocks HBV/HDV entry, has revolutionized the field. Another drug, lonafarnib, already approved to treat progeria, is expected to be available soon as HDV therapy. Since there is no cell reservoir for the HDV RNA genome, hypothetically viral clearance could be achieved if complete blocking of viral replication occurs for a minimum time frame. This is what happens in hepatitis C using direct-acting antivirals, with the achievement of cure in nearly all treated patients. We envision the cure of hepatitis delta using combination antiviral therapy. Given that sexual and parenteral transmission routes are the most frequent for the acquisition of HBV and HDV, shared with HIV infection and HBV/HDV and HIV coinfection. The clinical outcome of hepatitis delta is worst in the HIV setting, with more frequent liver complications. Since most persons infected with HIV are on regular health care follow-up, we propose that HIV-HDV patients should be prioritized for moving forward new and potentially curative treatments for hepatitis delta.