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Keywords:

  • arctic;
  • genotype;
  • hepatitis B virus;
  • Inuit;
  • mutant

Summary.  Very little is known of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in Canadian Arctic indigenous populations, where HBV was considered endemic prior to the introduction of HBV vaccine. This study expands upon an HBV seroepidemiological survey conducted between 1983 and 1985 throughout the Canadian Arctic, to characterize HBV in this population. Archived hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive sera (= 401) were processed for HBV DNA, followed by sequencing and phylogenetic analysis of the HBsAg- and HBcAg-coding regions. Sixty-nine per cent of samples (277/401) were DNA positive, with most having low viral load (median 3.4 log 10 IU/mL). The predominant HBV genotype observed was genotype B (HBV/B, 75%), followed by HBV/D (24%) and HBV/A (1%). All HBV/B strains clustered within subgenotype B6, a newly recognized HBV genotype among western circumpolar Inuit and Alaska Native people. HBV/D strains included both D3 (88%) and D4 (12%) subgenotypes, while all HBV/A strains were subgenotype A2. An association of HBV genotype B with Inuit living in the eastern Arctic and an association of genotype D with First Nation (Dene) living in the western Arctic was observed. This study establishes the high prevalence of HBV/B6 and HBV/D genotypes in Arctic populations and reveals their marked distribution within the Canadian Arctic based on geographical and demographic attributes.