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Hepat Mon. 2016 Mar 29;16(3):e34763. doi: 10.5812/hepatmon.34763. eCollection 2016 Mar.

Characterization of Occult Hepatitis B Infection Among Injecting Drug Users in Tehran, Iran.

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Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Research Center, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, IR Iran.
Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, IR Iran.
Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, IR Iran.
Department of Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, IR Iran.



Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a major health problem worldwide.


The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency of occult hepatitis B infection (OBI) and its associated risk factors, together with the molecular characterization of the virus in injecting drug users of Tehran.


The study consisted of 229 injecting drug users. Serum samples were collected and tested for the presence of hepatitis B core antibody (HBcAb) and hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). HBV B virus DNA was extracted from the serum samples, and a fragment of the S gene was amplified using the nested polymerase chain reaction. The genotype, subgenotypes, subtype, and S gene mutation of HBV were determined by direct sequencing. A phylogenetic tree was constructed using the neighbor-joining method.


Sixty-four (28%) participants were HBcAb positive, 59 cases were HBcAb positive and HBsAg negative, and 5 cases were HBsAg positive. Hepatitis B DNA was found in three HBsAg-positive cases. Thirteen of 59 (22%) individuals were hepatitis B DNA positive. The phylogenetic tree of hepatitis B DNA showed the existence of genotype D. The only significant correlation was between sharing a syringe and OBI.


In comparison with the rate of HBcAb positivity reported in other Iranian studies, the rate was higher in the present study. There were a few variations, genotypes, and subtypes among the infected injecting drug users. Further investigations are needed to unravel the molecular characterization of OBI.


Genotype; Hepatitis B; Hepatitis B Surface Antigen; Injecting Drug User

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