Delta agent is a type of virus called hepatitis D that causes symptoms only in people who have a hepatitis B infection.
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is only found in people who carry the hepatitis B virus. HDV may make a hepatitis B infection or existing hepatitis B liver disease worse. It can cause symptoms in people with hepatitis B virus who never had symptoms.
Hepatitis D infects about 15 million people worldwide. It occurs in 5% of people with hepatitis B.
Risk factors include:
- Abusing intravenous (IV) drugs
- Being infected while pregnant (the mother can pass the virus to the baby)
- Carrying the hepatitis B virus
- Having had a hepatitis B infection in the past
- Men having intercourse with other men
- Receiving many blood transfusions
Hepatitis D may make the symptoms of hepatitis B more severe.
Symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark-colored urine
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
Exams and Tests
- Anti-delta agent antibody
- Liver biopsy
- Liver enzymes
Many of the medicines used to treat hepatitis B are not helpful for treating hepatitis D.
Persons with long-term HDV infection may receive a medicine called alpha interferon for up to 12 months. A liver transplant for end-stage chronic hepatitis B may be effective.
Persons with an acute HDV infection usually get better over 2 to 3 weeks. Liver enzyme levels return to normal within 16 weeks. About 10% of those who are infected may develop long-term (chronic) liver inflammation (hepatitis).
- Chronic active hepatitis
- Fulminant hepatitis
- Prompt recognition and treatment of hepatitis B infection can help prevent hepatitis D.
- Avoid intravenous drug abuse. If you use IV drugs, avoid sharing needles.
- A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis B. It should be considered by people who are at high risk for hepatitis B infection.