Hepatitis B e antigen in sera from individuals infected with hepatitis B virus of genotype G



Hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotype G (HBV/G) was detected in sera from four individuals by polymerase chain reaction with hemi-nested primers deduced from an insertion of 36 nt in the core gene that is specific for this genotype. Despite two stop codons in the precore region characteristic of HBV/G, all patients were positive for hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) in serum. When 10 HBV clones were propagated from one patient, and sequenced within precore region and a section of the core gene, 6 clones were HBV/G while 2 were genotype A (HBV/A); a recombination between HBV/G and HBV/A occurred in the remaining 2 clones. Mixed infection of HBV/G and HBV/A, as well as the recombination, was demonstrated in the sequence of preS1 and preS2 regions also. Coinfection with HBV/G and HBV/A was demonstrated in the other three patients, and their recombination in two patients. Ten HBV clones were propagated from one patient at two time points separated by 1 year. Clones of HBV/A, HBV/G and their recombination were found in 9 : 1 : 0 when the patient was positive for HBeAg, while the proportion shifted to 0 : 8 : 2 after the patient seroconverted to anti-HBe. In conclusion, HBV/G is frequently found as a coinfection with HBV/A. This coinfection would explain the presence of HBeAg in individuals infected with HBV/G. Along with seroconversion to anti-HBe, HBV/G would be selected accompanied by the recombination with HBV/A. Further studies should be performed to confirm these findings.