Molecular epidemiology of Hepatitis delta virus infection in Minas Gerais state from Brazil, an area outside the hyperendemic region of the Amazon Basin

BACKGROUND Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infections in hepatitis B virus (HBV) carriers are the most severe form of viral hepatitis. HDV prevalence is high in the Brazilian Amazon, but studies in other regions of the country are still scarce and often underestimated its prevalence by including a small numbers of individuals. OBJECTIVE This study aimed to determine the serological prevalence of hepatitis D, the genotypes circulating and to evaluate the associated risk factors for acquisition of HDV in Minas Gerais state, Brazil. METHODS We screened plasma samples (n = 498) from HBV chronic carriers for anti-HD antibodies using a commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kit. For those samples that were positive for anti-HD antibodies, we performed a reverse transcriptase (RT) nested-polymerase chain reaction (nested-PCR) in order to detect the viral genome and identify the viral genotypes circulating in the state. FINDINGS The prevalence was 6.22% (31/498). Blood transfusion was the only risk factor associated with HDV infection [risk ratio: 3.73; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.44 to 9.65]. For 26 anti-HD positive patients, HDAg gene sequences were determined and in all patients HDV genotype 1 was found. CONCLUSIONS This study confirmed the circulation of HDV in Minas Gerais, an area previously considered non-endemic for hepatitis D in Brazil. The prevalence found in this study is much higher when compared to other studies performed in Brazil, probably because the population in our study was selected with minimal bias. Furthermore, in 26 anti-HD positive plasma samples, we were also able to detect the viral genome, indicating that these patients were experienced an active infection at the time of sample collection. These findings emphasise the importance of anti-HD testing in HBV infected individuals, which may contribute to this disease control in Brazil.