1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Geneva University Hospitals, Geneva, Switzerland.
2Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Importance: Hepatitis D virus (HDV) infection occurs in association with hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and affects approximately 12 million to 72 million people worldwide. HDV causes more rapid progression to cirrhosis and higher rates of hepatocellular carcinoma than HBV alone or hepatitis C virus.
Observations: HDV requires HBV to enter hepatocytes and to assemble and secrete new virions. Acute HDV-HBV coinfection is followed by clearance of both viruses in approximately 95% of people, whereas HDV superinfection in an HBV-infected person results in chronic HDV-HBV infection in more than 90% of infected patients. Chronic hepatitis D causes more rapidly progressive liver disease than HBV alone. Approximately 30% to 70% of patients with chronic hepatitis D have cirrhosis at diagnosis and more than 50% die of liver disease within 10 years of diagnosis. However, recent studies suggested that progression is variable and that more than 50% of people may have an indolent course. Only approximately 20% to 50% of people infected by hepatitis D have been diagnosed due to lack of awareness and limited access to reliable diagnostic tests for the HDV antibody and HDV RNA. The HBV vaccine prevents HDV infection by preventing HBV infection, but no vaccines are available to protect those with established HBV infection against HDV. Interferon alfa inhibits HDV replication and reduces the incidence of liver-related events such as liver decompensation, hepatocellular carcinoma, liver transplant, or mortality from 8.5% per year to 3.3% per year. Adverse effects from interferon alfa such as fatigue, depression, and bone marrow suppression are common. HBV nucleos(t)ide analogues, such as entecavir or tenofovir, are ineffective against HDV. Phase 3 randomized clinical trials of bulevirtide, which blocks entry of HDV into hepatocytes, and lonafarnib, which interferes with HDV assembly, showed that compared with placebo or observation, these therapies attained virological and biochemical response in up to 56% of patients after 96 weeks of bulevirtide monotherapy and 19% after 48 weeks of lonafarnib, ritonavir, and pegylated interferon alfa treatment.
Conclusions and relevance: HDV infection affects approximately 12 million to 72 million people worldwide and is associated with more rapid progression to cirrhosis and liver failure and higher rates of hepatocellular carcinoma than infection with HBV alone. Bulevirtide was recently approved for HDV in Europe, whereas pegylated interferon alfa is the only treatment available in most countries.