To evaluate the effect of hepatitis delta virus on the level of replication of hepatitis B virus and to assess the clinical significance that such an effect might have on the final outcome of the infection, the serological profile of hepatitis B virus DNA was investigated in 153 patients with acute or chronic hepatitis B virus infection with or without associated delta infection. Serum hepatitis B virus DNA was detected in 57% of patients with acute hepatitis B, 67% of those with acute hepatitis B virus-hepatitis delta virus coinfection and 25% of HBsAg carriers with hepatitis delta virus superinfection during the first week after the onset of symptoms. Patients with acute hepatitis B and those with acute hepatitis B virus-hepatitis delta virus coinfection did not differ significantly with respect to the serological profile of hepatitis B virus DNA and final clinical outcome. Within the group of HBsAg carriers with hepatitis delta virus superinfection, all patients who were initially negative for hepatitis B virus DNA developed chronic hepatitis delta virus infection, whereas 3 of the 4 patients with active hepatitis B virus infection at the time of superinfection showed transient inhibition of hepatitis B virus replication followed by termination of hepatitis delta virus infection in two patients. Therefore, although delta virus may inhibit the replication of hepatitis B virus among chronic HBsAg carriers, this effect is not readily apparent among patients with hepatitis B virus-hepatitis delta virus coinfection.