We studied 67 HBsAg-negative Israeli patients (36 negative for all HBV serological markers as group 1 and 31 positive for antibodies to HBs and HBc as group 2) with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis of unknown origin using a rapid, sensitive and specific assay for the detection of low levels of hepatitis B virus in serum. This technique uses a high-affinity monoclonal antibody to HBs against an a domain epitope of HBsAg to capture the virion, followed by hepatitis B virus DNA amplification with the polymerase chain reaction. In addition, 55 subjects without liver disease served as controls: Group 3 (n = 32) was negative for all hepatitis B virus markers; group 4 (n = 23) was positive for antibodies to HBs and HBc. We found 11 individuals in group 1 (31%) and 10 in group 2 (29%) harboring low levels of hepatitis B virus DNA in serum. In contrast, no one in group 3 or group 4 was positive by this technique (p <0.0001). Using polymerase chain reaction primers spanning other regions of the hepatitis B virus genome and a method of restriction-fragment analysis of polymerase chain reaction-amplified sequences, we detected significant DNA sequence heterogeneity, suggesting infection with distinct hepatitis B virus strains. DNA extracted from paraffin-embedded liver biopsy specimens of 42 patients from groups 1 and 2 was shown to contain hepatitis B virus DNA by polymerase chain reaction in 11 of 12 patients with circulating virion DNA. More important, 18 additional patients whose sera were negative by HBs-antibody capture/polymerase chain reaction amplification had hepatitis B virus DNA sequences in their livers. Hepatitis C virus antibodies were found in 71% of group 1, in 65% of group 2, in 3% of group 3 and in 4% of group 4 (p <0.0001). Coexistence of hepatitis B virus infection and hepatitis C virus antibodies were common (>30%). We conclude that infection with hepatitis B virus undetectable by conventional assays and with hepatitis C virus may represent important unrecognized causes of idiopathic chronic liver disease in Israel, accounting for the possible origin in more than 90% of patients.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||8|
|State||Published - Jun 1991|
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