• Hepatitis C virus;
  • Hepatitis B virus ;
  • chronic Hepatitis ;
  • cirrhosis;
  • occult infection

Abstract:Background: Anti-hepatitis C virus (anti-HCV) patients with chronic liver disease (CLD) frequently show markers of previous hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Moreover, they may carry occult HBV infection. These features might influence clinical and biochemical features as well as stage of disease. Aim: To assess the prevalence and clinical associations of previous (positivity for anti-HBs and/or anti-HBc antibodies) and occult HBV infection (positivity for HBV-DNA by nested-PCR) in the serum of anti-HCV-positive, HCV-RNA-positive, HBsAg-negative patients with various degrees of CLD seen at a tertiary referral centre. Patients: A total of 119 patients fulfilled the inclusion criteria (84 chronic hepatitis and 35 liver cirrhosis). Results: Forty-eight patients (40.3%) showed markers of previous HBV infection. This feature was more frequent (P = 0.02) among cirrhotics (57%) as compared to chronic hepatitis patients (33%). Chronic hepatitis patients positive for markers of previous HBV infection had worse histology as compared to negative ones (grading: 6.4 ± 2.7 versus 4.6 ± 3.0, P = 0.004; staging: 1.6 ± 1.2 versus 1.0 ± 1.0, P = 0.01). Eight patients were positive for HBV-DNA in serum (6.7%). No difference in the presence of occult HBV infection was seen between various degrees of liver disease (7.1% of chronic hepatitis, 5.7% of cirrhosis) and among patients who were positive (10.4%) or negative (4.2%) for markers of previous HBV infection. No significant biochemical, virological, or histological difference was observed between age, age at infection, duration of infection, marker patterns of previous HBV infection-matched HBV-DNA-positive and negative chronic hepatitis patients. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that previous HBV infection among anti-HCV patients is associated with worse disease stage. In these patients, the prevalence of occult HBV infection is low and there is no difference in distribution among patients with or without markers of previous HBV infection. Furthermore, it does not seem to be associated with disease stage. Lastly, at least among patients with chronic hepatitis, it does not seem to affect the severity of disease.