Pre-existing YMDD mutants in treatment-naïve patients with chronic hepatitis B are not selected during lamivudine therapy


  • Conflict of interest: None.


Although the rate at which mutations in the tyrosine-methionine-aspartate-aspartate (YMDD) motif of hepatitis B virus polymerase form is high during prolonged lamivudine (LAM) therapy, these mutations sometimes occur naturally in treatment-naïve patients with chronic hepatitis B. The prevalence of natural YMDD mutants differs geographically, and its clinical significance during LAM therapy is unknown. This study aimed to investigate whether pre-existing YMDD mutants were selected during LAM therapy. It included 14 treatment-naïve patients who were treated with LAM for at least 9 months. LAM resistance was evaluated before and at 3-month intervals during treatment. Mutations were analyzed by direct sequencing, restriction fragment mass polymorphism (RFMP) assays, and a single-step multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test using dual-priming oligonucleotide (DPO) primers. DPO-based multiplex PCR showed two YMDD mutations in two patients before LAM therapy; rtM204V and rtL180M + rtM204V/I. Further, two patients had an rtL180M mutation without an accompanying rtM204V/I mutation. No mutant was detected in any patient by direct sequencing or the RFMP assay before LAM therapy. A virological response was observed at 3 months in all patients with pre-existing YMDD mutants. All mutations disappeared after 3 months of LAM therapy, and during the follow-up period, no re-emergence was detected by any of the three methods. Further, the viral load was suppressed optimally. In conclusion, pre-existing YMDD mutants were cleared early during the course of LAM therapy, which produced a consistent virological response, and the mutants were not selected by LAM therapy. J. Med. Virol. 84:217–222, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.