• acute hepatitis;
  • chronic active hepatitis;
  • gene length polymorphism;
  • genotype;
  • hepatitis B;
  • sequencing

Between 5 and 10% of adults infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) develop a chronic infection lasting longer than 6 months, which may lead to advanced liver disease. HBV can be classified into six genotypic families: A, B, C, D, E and F, but only genotypes A and D are significantly represented in western Europe, where they account for some 90% of cases of infection with HBV. In the present study, we investigated a possible association between HBV genotype A or D and clinical outcome of the infection. We compared the prevalence of these genotypes in a group of patients with chronic active hepatitis to that of a group with acute resolving hepatitis. In patients with chronic active hepatitis, genotype A was found in 28 of 35 patients and genotype D in only four. The remaining three patients were infected with genotype non-A, non-D. In contrast, genotype D was found in 24 of 30 patients with acute hepatitis, whilst genotype A was found in only three patients of this group. Three were infected with genotype non-A, non-D. Our results show a clear association between genotype A and chronic outcome (Ficher’s exact test: two-sided P-value, P < 0.0001). They suggest that HBV genotypes may play a role in the virus–host relationship. Possible mechanisms for such a role are discussed.