It doesn’t really matter where you live; hepatitis B is a global health concern. Infections can be found in developing and developed areas. It is not like hepatitis A, which is usually transmitted by inadequate hygiene measures. This type of hepatitis virus is also transmitted via body fluids but does not require any contact with feces. Instead, the most common transmission mode is widespread all over the world: intimacy and sexual relations.
Similar to other hepatitis viruses, this one has a preference for the liver. It develops in the liver for many years and sometimes has an asymptomatic presentation. The combination of a high transmission rate through sexual behavior and a significantly low detection rate due to its asymptomatic nature makes it much more dangerous than hepatitis A.
This article discusses what this virus is like, how it works, how it is transmitted, and other important facts you need to know to stay safe.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B Virus, or HBV, is a type of hepadnavirus with a spherical virion particle of 44 nm. It has a double shell with spheres and rods, similar to other viruses we have recently seen all over the news. Hepatitis B virus is amazingly resistant to extreme temperatures and challenging weather. This resistant virus was even found in a 400-year-old mummy child found in Korea. If you take it to a hot place, it can survive for 7 days at sustained temperatures of 44 ºC. If you take it to a very cold area, it survives up to 6 months at a temperature of -80 ºC.
The genome found in the hepatitis B virus features a circular DNA molecule. Once in the liver, this virus injects this DNA genome and stimulates its replication inside the cell. Luckily, the body can become immune to this virus after its first contact, when anti-HB antibodies (HBsAg) are created. But the clinical manifestations start once the body becomes able to counter the infection. The immune system does attack not only the virus but also the liver, causing liver injury. That’s why hepatitis B causes liver cirrhosis and sometimes liver cancer.