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J Virol. 1998 Sep;72(9):7692-6.

Characterization of unusual escape variants of hepatitis B virus isolated from a hepatitis B surface antigen-negative subject.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology, University of Göttingen, D-37075 Göttingen, Germany.


Hepatitis B virus DNA was extracted from serial serum samples of a hepatitis B surface antigen-negative patient with antibodies to the core protein as the only marker of an infection with hepatitis B virus. This patient showed no symptoms of hepatic injury. Sequencing of the amplified viral DNA demonstrated multiple amino acid changes clustering in surface-exposed regions of the surface protein. Synthesis and association of the middle (M) and small (S) surface proteins could be shown in vitro. The variant surface antigens were recognized neither by monoclonal antibodies to the surface antigen nor by the vaccinee's sera. Consequences for hepatitis B surface antigen testing and vaccine development are discussed.

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