, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 359-364
Date: 07 Mar 2009

Antibody to hepatitis B core antigen as a screening test for occult hepatitis B virus infection in Egyptian chronic hepatitis C patients

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The presence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA in liver tissue and/or in serum in the absence of detectable hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) is called occult HBV infection. This pattern was identified in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The aim of this study was to determine the role of antibodies to hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc) as a screening test for occult HBV infection in Egyptian chronic HCV patients.


One hundred chronic HCV patients negative for HBsAg were included and subdivided into two groups according to anti-HBc-IgG seroreactivity. Group A included 71 patients positive for anti-HBc (53 men and 18 women, mean age ± SD 48.8 ± 9.6 years), and group B included 29 patients negative for anti-HBc (18 men and 11 women, mean age ± SD 46.6 ± 11.7 years). All patients were subjected to full clinical assessment, routine laboratory investigations, abdominal ultrasonography and quantification of HBV-DNA by real-time PCR.


Chronic HCV patients positive for anti-HBc have more severe liver disease compared with anti-HBc negative patients. Although HBV-DNA in the serum was detected in 22.5% of anti-HBc-positive chronic HCV patients, it was not detected in any of anti-HBc-negative chronic HCV patients. There was no significant difference in any of the clinical and laboratory data tested between anti-HBc-positive patients with and without HBV-DNA in the serum.


A significant number of patients with anti-HBc had detectable levels of HBV-DNA in the serum. Egyptian chronic HCV patients have a high prevalence of occult HBV infection.