• molecular characterization;
  • phylogeny;
  • genotyping


Iran is a low to medium endemic country for hepatitis B virus (HBV), depending on the region, where genotype D is dominant. Samples from 170 asymptomatic HBsAg-positive blood donors were quantified and the median viral load was 6.7 × 102 IU/ml with 10.6% samples unquantifiable. Fifty complete genome sequences of these strains were characterized. Phylogenetic analysis identified 98% strains as subgenotype D1 and 2% as D2. Deduced serotypes were ayw2 (94%), ayw1 (4%), and adw (2%). The nucleotide diversity of the complete genome subgenotype D1 Iranian strains was limited (2.8%) and comparison with D1 strains from Egypt and Tunisia revealed little variation between strains from these three countries (range 1.9–2.8%). The molecular analysis of the individual genes revealed that the G1896A mutation was present in 86.2% of the strains and in 26 strains (29.9%) this mutation was accompanied by the G1899A mutation. The double mutations A1762T/G1764A and G1764T/C1766G were found in 20.7% and 24.1% of the strains, respectively. The pre-C initiation codon was mutated in five strains (5.8%). One strain had a 2-amino acid (aa) insertion at position s111 and another sP120Q substitution suggesting a vaccine escape mutant. J. Med. Virol. 83:948–952, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.