Sera from 588 woodchucks were assayed for woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) markers using hepatitis B virus (HBV) reagents which have cross-reactivity with WHV markers. Twenty per cent of these woodchucks, trapped in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania, had WHsAg; 50% of these had DNA polymerase. There are areas of high and low endemicity within these states. Female woodchucks may have a higher incidence of WHV markers than do males. Woodchuck hepatitis surface antigen (WHsAg) and anti-WHc often occur together but less commonly than HBsAg and anti-HBc do in human HBV infection. Experimental infection of woodchucks with WHV produced a prolonged infection (up to 40 weeks). WHsAg and DNA polymerase appeared to be more reliable indicators of infectivity than anti-WHc, woodchuck hepatitis e antigen (WHeAg) or anti-WHe. WHeAg was not detected throughout this period of infection, while anti-WHe appeared late in two of three experimentally infected animals. Four male and four female woodchucks which developed primary hepatocellular carcinoma in captivity were analyzed for WHV markers throughout their period of confinement. Seven were WHsAg and anti-WHc positive when captured. The animal that was free of WHV markers on capture converted to the WHsAg and anti-WHc positive state prior to the development of primary hepatocellular carcinoma. One primary hepatocellular carcinoma animal produced WHeAg and none anti-WHs or anti-WHe.
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