Hepatitis in Albanian children: Molecular analysis of hepatitis A virus isolates



Hepatitis A is a common disease in developing countries and Albania has a high prevalence of this disease associated to young age. In spite of the occurrence of a unique serotype there are different genotypes classified from I to VII. Genotype characterisation of HAV isolates circulating in Albania has been undertaken, as well as the study of the occurrence of antigenic variants in the proteins VP3 and VP1. To evaluate the genetic variability of the Albanian hepatitis A virus (HAV) isolates, samples were collected from 12 different cities, and the VP1/2A junction amplified and sequenced. These sequences were aligned and a phylogenetic analysis performed. Additionally, the amino half sequence of the protein VP3 and the complete sequence of the VP1 was determined. Anti-HAV IgM were present in 66.2% of all the sera. Fifty HAV isolates were amplified and the analysis revealed that all the isolates were sub-genotype IA with only limited mutations. When the deduced amino acid sequences were obtained, the alignment showed only two amino acids substitutions at positions 22 and 34 of the 2A protein. A higher genomic stability of the VP1/2A region, in contrast with what occurs in other parts of the world could be observed, indicating high endemicity of HAV in Albania. In addition, two potential antigenic variants were detected. The first at position 46 of VP3 in seven isolates and the second at position 23 of VP1 in six isolates. J. Med. Virol. 72:533–537, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.