OBJECTIVE : Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection is the most severe form of viral hepatitis. Although HDV-associated liver disease is considered immune-mediated, adaptive immune responses against HDV are weak. Thus, the role of several other cell-mediated mechanisms such as those driven by mucosa-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, a group of innate-like T cells highly enriched in the human liver, has not been extensively studied in clinical HDV infection. METHODS : MAIT cells from a sizeable cohort of patients with chronic HDV were analyzed ex vivo and in vitro after stimulation. Results were compared with MAIT cells from hepatitis B virus (HBV) monoinfected patients and healthy controls. RESULTS : Circulating MAIT cells were dramatically decreased in the peripheral blood of HDV-infected patients. Signs of decline were also observed in the liver. In contrast, only a modest decrease of circulating MAIT cells was noted in HBV monoinfection. Unsupervised high-dimensional analysis of residual circulating MAIT cells in chronic HDV infection revealed the appearance of a compound phenotype of CD38hiPD-1hiCD28loCD127loPLZFloEomesloHelioslo cells indicative of activation. Corroborating these results, MAIT cells exhibited a functionally impaired responsiveness. In parallel to MAIT cell loss, HDV-infected patients exhibited signs of monocyte activation and increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines IL-12 and IL-18. In vitro, IL-12 and IL-18 induced an activated MAIT cell phenotype similar to the one observed ex vivo in HDV-infected patients. These cytokines also promoted MAIT cell death, suggesting that they may contribute to MAIT cell activation and subsequent loss during HDV infection. CONCLUSIONS : These results suggest that chronic HDV infection engages the MAIT cell compartment causing activation, functional impairment, and subsequent progressive loss of MAIT cells as the HDV-associated liver disease progresses. UNASSIGNED : Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) infection is the most severe form of viral hepatitis. We found that in patients with HDV, a subset of innate-like T cells called mucosa-associated invariant T cells (or MAIT cells), which are normally abundant in peripheral blood and the liver, are activated, functionally impaired and severely depleted.