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Keywords:

  • core promoter mutations;
  • HBV genotypes;
  • line probe assay;
  • precore mutations

Background and Objectives  This study was carried out to determine the frequency of hepatitis B virus (HBV) core promoter variants (nucleotide positions 1762, 1764) and precore variants (nucleotide position 1896) in hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive Scottish blood donors. HBV genotypes present in this population were also indentified.

Materials and Methods  A total of 85 HBsAg-positive blood donor samples were included in the study. Of these, 79 were polymerase chain reaction (PCR) positive and had sequence and mutation information. They were divided into two groups: group 1 (23 individuals) were hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive and negative for antibody to HBe (anti-HBe); and group 2 (56 individuals) were HBeAg negative and positive for anti-HBe. A line probe assay was used to detect mutations, and a comparison was made by using direct sequence analysis. A different line probe assay was used to identify HBV genotype.

Results  The frequencies of mutations in group 1 were 22% each for mutations 1762, 1764 and 1896, increasing to 26%, 35% and 55% in group 2, respectively. By contrast, direct sequence analysis failed to identify 70% of wild-type/mutant mixes. The prevalence of viral genotypes was 41% for genotype A, 12% for genotype B, 5% for genotype C, 30% for genotype D and 12% for mixed-genotype infections. Precore mutations were seen in 10%, 88%, 25% and 74% of genotypes A, B, C and D, respectively.

Conclusions  The results indicate that core promoter and/or precore mutants may be under-reported. The combination of HBV PCR and line probe assays is useful for supplementing HBV serological tests. Non-Caucasian genotypes are present in the UK blood-donating population and will therefore affect the demographics of HBV infection.