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Summary

Evidence regarding the outcomes of viral super-infection in patients with chronic liver disease and practical strategies for hepatitis A and B vaccination of these individuals are reviewed. Patients with acute hepatitis A and chronic hepatitis B have a more severe clinical course and a higher death rate compared with otherwise healthy individuals with hepatitis A, and these differences are most pronounced in older patients and those with histological evidence of chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis, rather than in asymptomatic hepatitis B carriers. Patients with acute hepatitis A super-infection and chronic hepatitis C have an increased risk of fulminant hepatitis and death. In addition, patients with other chronic liver diseases also appear to be at increased risk for more severe disease with superimposed hepatitis A. Patients with chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus co-infection have more severe laboratory abnormalities, more severe histological disease, a greater frequency of cirrhosis and complications of cirrhosis, and a higher incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma. Vaccines for both hepatitis A and B are safe and effective if used early in the course of chronic liver disease. Hepatitis A and B vaccination should be part of the routine management of patients with chronic liver disease, preferably as early as possible in the natural course of their disease.