Hepatitis D

What is it? 

  • Hepatitis D, also called delta virus, also known as an  incomplete virus that requires the helper function of hepatitis B virus to multiply and is therefore only found in people who are already infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis D is the least common but most severe form of viral hepatitis
  • Hepatitis D  can be an acute, short-term, infection or a long-term, chronic infection
  • Hepatitis D infection only occurs as a co-infection, which means it occurs at the same time as hepatitis B infection; or it can occur as a super infection in people who have chronic hepatitis B.
  • It is rare in Australia but people who are infected with hepatitis D and hepatitis B have a higher risk of developing chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).i

How is it transmitted? 

  • Hepatitis D is spread in similar ways to hepatitis B because the virus is found in blood.
  •  Blood to blood

Activities which place people at risk

  • Sharing injecting and auxiliary equipment
  • Tattooing and skin piercing with contaminated equipment
  • Sharing toothbrushes, combs, & razors

Short term effects 

“The symptoms of hepatitis D are similar to hepatitis B

  • loss of appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • tiredness
  • pain in the liver (upper, right side of abdomen)
  • muscle and joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin, dark urine and pale-coloured faeces.” (CDC 2006)

Long term effects 

  • People who are infected with hepatitis D and hepatitis B have a higher risk of developing chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)


  • Hepatitis B vaccination prevents hepatitis D


  • Hepatitis B vaccination prevents hepatitis D for people who are chronically infected with hepatitis B
  • If you have chronic hepatitis B harm reduction practices are the only protection.
  • No sharing of all injecting and auxiliary equipment
  • Ensure sterile equipment for tattooing and skin piercing
  • Follow Universal Precautions when managing body fluids
  • Avoid sharing toothbrushes, combs, and razors
  • Safe sexual practices that ensure blood is not transmitted


  • Co-infection and super infection with hepatitis D can be diagnosed by a blood test which, if positive, will show antibodies against the hepatitis D virus


Discuss the protocols for monitoring your liver health with your gastroenterologist


There is no specific treatment for hepatitis D. Research indicates that the medication used to treat hepatitis B has a limited effect on the activity of hepatitis D virus. Clinical trials using Pegylated interferon have demonstrated some benefit in people with hepatitis D

More information