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Delta agent (Hepatitis D)


Delta agent is a type of virus called hepatitis D. It causes symptoms only in people who also have hepatitis B infection.

Alternative Names:

Hepatitis D virus


Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is found only in people who carry the hepatitis B virus. HDV may make liver disease worse in people who have either recent (acute) or long-term (chronic) hepatitis B. It can even cause symptoms in people who carry hepatitis B virus but who never had symptoms.

Hepatitis D infects about 15 million people worldwide. It occurs in a small number of people who carry hepatitis B.

Risk factors include:

  • Abusing intravenous (IV) or injection drugs
  • Being infected while pregnant (the mother can pass the virus to the baby)
  • Carrying the hepatitis B virus
  • Men having sexual intercourse with other men
  • Receiving many blood transfusions

Hepatitis D may make the symptoms of hepatitis B worse.

Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Exams and Tests:

You may need the following tests:


Many of the medicines used to treat hepatitis B are not helpful for treating hepatitis D.

You may receive a medicine called alpha interferon for up to 12 months if you have a long-term HDV infection. A liver transplant for end-stage chronic hepatitis B may be effective.

Outlook (Prognosis):

People with an acute HDV infection most often get better over 2 to 3 weeks. Liver enzyme levels return to normal within 16 weeks.

About 1 in 10 of those who are infected may develop long-term (chronic) liver inflammation (hepatitis).

Possible Complications:

Complications may include:

  • Chronic active hepatitis
  • Fulminant hepatitis
When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of hepatitis B.


Steps to prevent the condition include:

  • Detect and treat hepatitis B infection as soon as possible to help prevent hepatitis D.
  • Avoid intravenous drug (IV) abuse. If you use IV drugs, avoid sharing needles.
  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.

Adults who are at high risk for hepatitis B infection and all children should get this vaccine. If you do not get Hepatitis B, you cannot get Hepatitis D.


Perrillo R. Hepatitis B and D. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010:chap 78.

Review Date: 11/20/2014
Reviewed By: Jenifer K. Lehrer, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Frankford-Torresdale Hospital, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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