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J Med Virol. 2010 Jul;82(7):1160-7. doi: 10.1002/jmv.21810.

Prevalence of hepatitis B virus MHR mutations and their correlation with genotypes and antiviral therapy in chronically infected patients in Serbia.

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Institute of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia.


Understanding the prevalence and diversity of HBsAg variants in a population is fundamental to assay design and planning vaccination programs. It has been shown that mutations within the S gene, caused by selection or natural variation, can lead to false-negative results in assays for HBsAg, or have clinical implications, such as evading anti-HBV immunoglobulin therapy or vaccine-induced immunity. The region of HBsAg where most of these mutations occur is known as the major hydrophilic region (MHR). The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and mutational patterns of MHR mutations in patients with chronic hepatitis B, and their correlation with patient characteristics, viral factors and antiviral therapy. The study comprised 164 plasma samples from patients with chronic hepatitis B, of which, 34.8% were on long-term lamivudine monotherapy. Direct sequencing of part of the S/pol gene was used for identification of HBsAg mutations, HBV genotypes, subgenotypes and HBsAg subtypes. The overall frequency of MHR mutations was 22.6%, but it varied significantly between untreated and treated patients (16.8% vs. 33.3%). The most frequent substitution was at position 120 (9.1%) whereas the most common vaccine-escape position, 145, was affected in 1.8% of isolates. The presence of MHR mutations was correlated with genotype D, subgenotype D3, and ayw2/ayw3 HBsAg subtypes and to older age (>40 years). It is concluded that natural viral variability present in a geographical region, duration of infection, and antiviral therapy are among the major factors associated with the occurrence of MHR mutations.

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