Liver & intrahepatic bile ducts

Viral hepatitis

Hepatitis B virus (HBV)

Last author update: 1 May 2012
Last staff update: 7 July 2023 (update in progress)

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PubMed Search: Hepatitis B virus[TI] HBV[TI] liver[TIAB] free full text[sb]

Komal Arora, M.D.
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Cite this page: Arora K. Hepatitis B virus (HBV). website. Accessed September 30th, 2023.
Definition / general
  • Usually subclinical disease but may lead to fulminant hepatic failure, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
  • Lifetime risk for hepatocellular carcinoma is 40% for men and 15% for women
  • Spread by acutely infected patients or chronic viral carriers through intimate / sexual contact, intravenous drug abuse, contaminated blood or infected instruments, maternal to infant via delivery
  • Causes 40% of hepatitis cases in US
  • Carrier: antigenemia > 6 months, normal ALT and AST, no symptoms; occurs in 10%
  • Immunostains may be helpful for chronic disease
  • Fibrosing cholestatic hepatitis: unusual presentation of hepatitis B virus in liver allograph recipients
  • Due to hepadnavirus
  • Intact virus is known as Dane particle
  • Has 28 nm central nucleocapsid core enclosed by outer surface envelope; core contains DNA genome with DNA polymerase, hepatitis B core antigen and hepatitis B e antigen
  • Viral envelope contains hepatitis B surface antigen

  • Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg): carries no particularly useful clinical information but is first serum marker of active infection
  • Hepatitis B core antigen (HBcAg): present in hepatocyte nuclei, not serum; indicates active replication of virus, patient is infective
Diagrams / tables

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Drawing of virion

Gross images

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Atrophic liver due to fulminant hepatitis

Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Acute: ground glass hepatocytes (finely granular eosinophilic cytoplasm consisting of spherules and tubules of HBsAg) with central ballooning degeneration
Microscopic (histologic) images

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Lobular disarray

Acidophil bodies

Submassive necrosis

Ground glass hepatocytes in asymptomatic carrier

Moderate portal inflammation

with minimal
interface hepatitis

Portal fibrosis with minimal inflammation (trichrome)

Severe with marked portal inflammation and piecemeal necrosis

Immunostain for surface antigen

Immunostain for core antigen (in nuclei)

Positive stains
  • Immunostains for HBsAg or HBcAg or orcein stain (highlights HBsAg)
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