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J Clin Virol. 2007 Jan;38(1):83-6. Epub 2006 Nov 28.

Reactivation of an occult hepatitis B virus escape mutant in an anti-HBs positive, anti-HBc negative lymphoma patient.

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Institute of Virology, University of Cologne, Fürst-Pückler-Street 56, D 50935 Köln, Germany.



Hepatitis B virus (HBV) often persists after resolution, but its replication is suppressed by antiviral T cells. Immunosuppressive treatment may lead to viral reactivation and severe hepatitis. Early antiviral therapy prevents reactivation but some occult HBV infections are not easily detectable.


Here we describe a patient with a progressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma who had probably not been vaccinated against HBV and, before immunosuppression, showed antibodies (anti-HBs) against the viral surface antigen (HBsAg) as the only possible marker of occult HBV infection. Under immunosuppression he developed viremia (>10(8)copies/mL). The virus exhibited three S gene mutations (L109R, C137W, G145R) which led to false negative HBsAg results and diminished binding of vaccine-induced anti-HBs.


Reliable screening and monitoring of severely immunosuppressed patients for HBV should include, in addition to anti-HBc and HBsAg, anti-HBs and sensitive HBV DNA assays. Furthermore, active vaccination or hepatitis B immune globulin may not protect against such mutants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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