The livers of 33 captive woodchucks were examined histologically in 30 biopsy and 10 autopsy specimens and the findings were correlated with serum determinations for woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV), surface antigen (WHsAg) and antibody (anti‐WHs), and WHV DNA and DNA polymerase. The liver appeared normal in all 3 serum‐negative animals, 7 of 16 with indeterminate WHV status, and 1 of 4 with anti‐WHs, but not in 10 animals with WHsAg, WHV DNA, and DNA polymerase. Mild hepatic inflammation was found in 7 woodchucks with indeterminate status, 4 with anti‐WHs, and 2 with each marker of WHV infection. Significant inflammation was found in 2 of indeterminate status and 4 with every marker, whereas more severe lesions (2 of chronic active type) occurred, almost always in autopsy specimens, in 8 animals with every marker. Eight of 10 animals with all markers had orcein‐positive inclusions (Shikata's technique) and 6 had hepatocellular carcinoma associated with acute and chronic hepatic inflammation and, usually, neoplastic nodules in the noncarcinomatous parenchyma. Features distinguishing the woodchuck lesion from human hepatitis B disease were: association of carcinoma with acute hepatic inflammation (but not with cirrhosis) and DNA polymerase in the serum; transition to carcinoma from neoplastic nodules; conspicuous plasma‐cellular reaction of hepatic inflammation, and hematopoietic cells in the tumor. Significant hepatic lesions in the woodchucks were regularly associated with serum WHsAg, WHV DNA, and DNA polymerase. In contrast to man, hepatocellular carcinoma in woodchucks was regularly associated with these markers of active viral replication. The nature of the orcein‐positive inclusions requires elucidation, although they may assist in screening for similar viruses in other species. The woodchuck may help in the study of the relation between hepatocellular carcinoma and hepatitis B, including the possibility of cocarcinogenic factors.
Hepatology – Wiley
Published: Mar 1, 1981
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