Occult Hepatitis B Virus Infection in Hemodialysis Patients With Isolated Hepatitis B Core Antibody: A Multicenter Study
Occult hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is characterized by presence of HBV infection with undetectable hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). Occult HBV infection harbors potential risk of HBV transmission through hemodialysis (HD). The aim of this study was to assess the occult HBV infection in hemodialysis patients with isolated hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc). A total of 289 HD patients from five dialysis units in Tehran, Iran, were included in this study. Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), Hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs), anti-HBc, Hepatitis C antibody (anti-HCV), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels were tested in all subjects. The presence of HBV-DNA was determined quantitatively in plasma samples of HD patients with isolated anti-HBc (HBsAg negative, anti-HBs negative and anti-HBc positive) by real-time PCR using the artus HBV RG PCR kit on the Rotor-Gene 3000 real-time thermal cycler. Of 289 patients enrolled in this study, 18 subjects (6.2%, 95% confidence interval (CI), 3.5%-8.9%) had isolated anti-HBc. HBV-DNA was detectable in 9 of 18 patients (50%, 95% CI, 27%-73%) who had isolated anti-HBc. Plasma HBV-DNA load was less than 50 IU/ml in all of these patients. Our study showed that detection of isolated anti-HBc could reflect unrecognized occult HBV infection in HD patients. The majority of these infections are associated with low viral loads.