Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is a replication-defective etiological agent of hepatitis that requires hepatitis B virus (HBV) as a helper. A complementary DNA (cDNA) fragment of the RNA genome of HDV was cloned into the plasmid vector pBR322, and the primary nucleotide sequence and predicted protein products of the cDNA fragment were determined. This cloned cDNA fragment has been used as a sensitive radioactive probe for the detection of HDV RNA in the serum of patients with either acute or chronic HDV infections.