Hepatitis B is a serious disease that is endemic in many parts of the world. A significant proportion of patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) are infected with a variant form of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) which decreases or abolishes the production of hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg). The purpose of this literature review is to describe the epidemiology of HBeAg-negative CHB (e-CHB) worldwide. A literature search was conducted to identify studies pertaining to e-CHB and underlying variants (precore and core promoter). Fifty studies were included in our analysis. The median prevalence of e-CHB among patients with chronic HBV infection was 33% in the Mediterranean, 15% in Asia Pacific, and 14% in the USA and Northern Europe. The pre core stop codon variant was detected in a median of 60% (range 0–100%) of HBeAg-negative patients overall, 92% in the Mediterranean, 50% in Asia Pacific and 24% in the USA and Northern Europe. There were very few data on the prevalence of core promoter variants outside Asia where the median prevalence among HBeAg-negative patients was 77%. This literature review revealed that e-CHB is more common than previously suspected and that it is present worldwide with marked variations in the prevalence of associated HBV variants across different geographical regions. Additional research using population based samples of adequate size based on a consensus definition of e-CHB and using standardized HBV DNA assays is needed to better estimate the true prevalence of e-CHB and its associated HBV variants.