Hepatitis B virus DNA in the sera of HBsAg carriers: A marker of active hepatitis B virus replication in the liver

Authors

  • Ferruccio Bonino,

    1. Division of Molecular Virology and Immunology, Department of Microbiology, Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Rockville, Maryland 20852
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Gastroenterology, Ospedale Molinette, Torino, Italy
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  • Bill Hoyer,

    1. Division of Molecular Virology and Immunology, Department of Microbiology, Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Rockville, Maryland 20852
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  • Judith Nelson,

    1. Division of Molecular Virology and Immunology, Department of Microbiology, Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Rockville, Maryland 20852
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  • Ronald Engle,

    1. Division of Molecular Virology and Immunology, Department of Microbiology, Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Rockville, Maryland 20852
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  • Giorgio Verme,

    1. Division of Molecular Virology and Immunology, Department of Microbiology, Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Rockville, Maryland 20852
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Gastroenterology, Ospedale Molinette, Torino, Italy
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  • John Gerin Ph.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Molecular Virology and Immunology, Department of Microbiology, Georgetown University Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, Rockville, Maryland 20852
    • Division of Molecular Virology and Immunology, Georgetown University, 5640 Fishers Lane, Rockville, Maryland 20852
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Abstract

Sera and liver biopsies from 30 Italian patients, carriers of HBsAg for at least 3 years, were examined for markers of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection by serological assays and immunofluorescence. Biopsies were analyzed for HBcAg, HBsAg, and δ antigen by immunofluorescence; sera were assayed for HBsAg/anti-HBs, HBcAg/anti-HBc, HBeAg/anti-HBe, δ/anti-δ, HBV-specific DNA polymerase activity and the presence of HBV DNA. HBcAg, HBeAg, and DNA polymerase tests were positive in the sera of 71, 86, and 57%, respectively, of carriers with intrahepatic HBcAg. HBV DNA was detected in 100% of patients expressing HBcAg in the liver with a strong correlation between the concentration of serum DNA and the intensity of HBcAg immunofluorescence in the liver. HBV DNA was detected in the sera of 63% of carriers with intrahepatic δ where the other markers of HBV replication (HBeAg, DNA polymerase) were undetectable. The assay for serum HBV DNA appears to be an excellent noninvasive method for detecting active replication of HBV in HBsAg carriers.

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