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Keywords:

  • GB virus-C/hepatitis G virus;
  • fulminant hepatitis;
  • polymerase chain reaction;
  • subfulminant hepatitis

Background: The role of GB virus-C/hepatitis G virus (GBV-C/HGV) in fulminant hepatitis (FH) and subfulminant hepatitis (SFH) remains unclear.

Methods: Thirty-two FH or SFH patients, with adequate clinical information and serum specimens, were studied. Serum samples were tested for hepatitis markers and genomes of hepatitis A–E viruses, as well as GBV-C/HGV.

Results: Of the cases of FH/SFH studied, one (3%) was caused by anti-tuberculosis agents, 26 (81%) had hepatotropic virus infection, and five (16%) had no identifiable cause. Of the 26 patients with hepatotropic virus infection, five had acute hepatitis B infection (one with acute hepatitis D virus (HDV) co-infection), one had acute hepatitis C infection, 16 were hepatitis B surface antigen carriers with reactivation or superimposed by unidentified agent(s) (two had triple virus infections), three were hepatitis B carriers with HDV superinfection, and one had GBV-C/HGV infection in addition to exposure to halothane. GBV-C/HGV-RNA was detected in only three of 32 patients (9%) and all had a history of blood transfusion or co-existing causative factors. Of the 26 patients with hepatotropic virus infection, 18 were tested for antibodies against GBV-C/HGV envelope protein and seven were reactive, suggesting past infection.

Conclusions: The role of GBV-C/HGV in causing FH and SFH is minimal in Taiwan and HBV infection remains the major aetiology. These findings also suggest the existence of as yet unrecognized agents, responsible for such catastrophic illnesses.