Like the hepatitis B virus, the hepatitis D virus is also present throughout the world, with higher prevalence in developing areas and among people of low socioeconomic status.
It is estimated that 10 million people are infected with the HDV virus. Genotype I is the most widespread, genotype II is the most frequent in Japan and Taiwan, and genotype III is only found in the Amazon.
Studies have shown that in Europe and the US, approximately 25-50% of fulminant hepatitis cases initially thought to be hepatitis B were actually caused by HDV.
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis D
Infection with Hdv, in the case of simultaneous infection with Hepatitis B virus, can manifest after an incubation period of 2 weeks to 2 months with signs and symptoms similar to infection with B virus, such as: tiredness and malaise, fever, dark urine, lack of appetite, nausea and vomitingabdominal pain, joint pain, jaundice.
Causes and transmission of Hepatitis D
Transmission from Hdv occurs in two ways:
- coinfection of hepatitis D and hepatitis B viruses
- Delta superinfection, that is, the condition in which a person who is already a chronic carrier of HBV also becomes infected with the Delta virus.
- through blood from transfusions and infected organ transplants, or through the use of contaminated needles and surgical instruments or toiletries
- by sexual transmission
- by vertical transmission from mother to child
- through biological fluids (bile, nasal secretion).
Who is at risk of contracting the hepatitis D virus
Although anyone can get hepatitis D, certain categories of people are at higher risk of coming into contact with the HDV virus.
- those who have multiple sexual partners
- family, friends, people in contact with infected people
- drug addicts
- children born to mothers with hepatitis D
- laboratory staff and workers who are exposed to blood and/or may handle needles and syringes if they are not perfectly sterilized
- those who practice and perform piercings, manicures, pedicures
- hemodialysis patients
- those traveling to countries where the virus is particularly widespread.
Diagnosis of hepatitis D
Hepatitis D is diagnosed by a blood test for the presence of antibodies to HDV.
Approximately three months after infection, anti-Hdv antibodies appear which, when they persist for a long time (for months or years), indicate that the subject is infected and that the disease is chronic (the infection tends to be chronic in 90% of cases). % ); when the antibodies disappear, it is a sign of recovery.
Hepatitis D therapies
For the treatment of Hepatitis D, the drugs available so far (Interferon) are barely effective (Interferon treatment or therapy results in a response in less than 15-20% of cases).
How to prevent hepatitis D
The cornerstone of hepatitis D prevention is the vaccine. In fact, Hbv prophylaxis also applies to the Hdv virus: there is no specific vaccine against Delta virus infection, but the Hepatitis B vaccine is also capable of protecting against Hepatitis D.
To avoid infecting other people, it is important to follow certain rules of hygiene and behavior:
- use a condom, especially for casual sex or multiple sex partners
- cover any cuts or wounds on the skin
- do not donate blood, semen or tissue
- do not share medical instruments
- avoid sharing personal hygiene and personal care items (combs, toothbrushes)
- inform your partner of the infection and recommend testing.