• HBV;
  • breakthrough hepatitis;
  • YMDD mutant;
  • reverse transcriptase


Patients who develop YMDD mutant during lamivudine therapy for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection exhibit various clinical courses. Some patients show normal ALT levels, whereas others develop severe hepatitis exacerbations (SHEs) due to YMDD mutants. We studied 136 patients with YMDD mutant among 362 Japanese adult patients on lamivudine therapy. Clinical and virological features of patients without elevated HBV DNA after emergence of YMDD mutant (non-elevated group) were investigated. Moreover, virological analysis was also performed in patients with SHE due to YMDD mutants. Patients in the non-elevated group were characterized by HBeAg-negative pretreatment, HBeAg loss during therapy, a longer duration from commencement of therapy until emergence of YMDD mutant, and no mixed-type YMDD mutants. Patients with SHE had more substitutions in the reverse transcriptase (rt) region within the polymerase gene at the time of exacerbation than those without SHE, although no specific substitutions were noted. Sequence analysis of full-length HBV genome showed more substitutions in X, rt, and surface proteins in patients with SHE than in those without elevated HBV DNA level. In conclusion, negativity for HBeAg at commencement of therapy or before emergence of YMDD mutant was an important factor among non-elevated group. More substitutions in the rt region and the other proteins may be related to the emergence of severe hepatitis caused by lamivudine-resistant virus. J. Med. Virol. 78:341–352, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.