SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Stimulated by observations in an outbreak of hepatitis δ-virus infection among Yucpa Indians in Venezuela, in which unusual histologic features were found, we studied 100 cases of fatal hepatitis from Colombia, South America, which had been obtained by autopsy or viscerotomy. These cases were considered to be “Santa Marta hepatitis,” or “hepatitis of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta,” which has been observed in this region for more than 40 years. Of the 100 cases, 19 had a variety of histologic lesions or were normal, and hepatitis δ-virus antigen was not demonstrated immunocytochemically in any of them. By contrast, 81 cases had a characteristic histologic picture with intense microvesicular steatosis associated with conspicuous eosinophilic necrosis of the hepatocytes, which apparently were sluggishly removed by cytolysis. Hepatitis δ-virus antigen was detected in 70% of the 81 cases, and the absence of detection of this antigen was often associated with poor tissue preservation and more extensive hepatocyte necrosis. A smaller percentage of patients had hepatitis B virus antigens detectable in liver tissue. The characteristic lesion in these 81 cases could be distinguished from other causes of microvesicular steatosis by the extensive eosinophilic necrosis. Other variable accompanying features included intraacinar, mainly macrophagic, scavenger cell inflammation, intense portal inflammation, parenchymal regeneration, and ductular and arteriolar proliferation. Santa Marta hepatitis as a severe form of hepatitis δ-virus infection differs markedly from fulminant δ-hepatitis in Europe and the United States in which the microsteatosis with marked eosinophilic degeneration is not found. The causes for these differences are unknown but may relate to nutritional factors or environmental toxins. Hepatitis δ-viral infection appears to be endemic in the indigent, rural populations of Northern South America where hepatitis B virus is also endemic. The severity of Santa Marta hepatitis stresses the importance of preventive measures against hepatitis B virus in these populations.