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J Med Virol. 1999 Sep;59(1):19-24.

Immunoassay detection of hepatitis B surface antigen mutants.

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Viral Discovery Group, Abbott Diagnostics Division, Abbott Laboratories, North Chicago, Illinois 60064-6269, USA.


The increasing use of hepatitis B vaccination has had an overwhelming positive impact on the prevention of hepatitis B viral infection. Mutations in the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) gene occur as a result of vaccine escape mutants, anti-hepatitis B surface antigen immunotherapy, or in chronic hepatitis B viral infection. These mutants may present a challenge to immunoassay detection. Evaluation of the immunodetection of various HBsAg mutants has been sporadic, as the occurrence of these mutants is not common, and sufficient volume of serum samples is difficult to obtain. To investigate mutant detection, recombinant antigens were constructed to reflect mutations described in the literature occurring throughout the S gene. A limited number of serum samples exhibiting discordant immunoassay reactivity were also used to construct recombinant antigens. The evaluation of 25 HBsAg mutants across nine commercial assays of differing formats is described. Mutations affecting immunoassay performance were characterized as occurring mainly in loop 2 of the "a" determinant of HBsAg. It was determined that reagent epitope recognition was more significant for mutant detection than assay format.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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