Background: There is little information about the prevalence of occult hepatitis B virus infection (OHBVI). We have investigated the prevalence and virological features of OHBVI among female sex workers (FSWs) in Istanbul.
Methods: Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was tested in FSWs who work uncontrolled and were admitted to Venereal Diseases Hospital. HBV DNA and anti-HBs were investigated in all the HBsAg-negative cases. Hepatitis B envelope (HBe) antigen, anti-HBe, anti-hepatitis B core (HBc) antigen, HBV genotype, S gene and precore (PC)/basic core promoter (BCP) mutations were determined in HBV DNA-positive sera.
Results: Two hundred and eighty-six volunteers were enrolled and 32.5% (n=93) of them had anti-HBs positivity. HBV DNA (range 30–209 copy/ml) was positive in 11 anti-HBs-negative and two anti-HBs-positive cases. The prevalence of OHBVI was 4.5% (13/286). Anti-HBc was positive in 77% (10/13) of those with OHBVI and anti-HBe positivity was 53.8% (7/13). Only genotype D was present in all occult HBV-infected cases. One PC (G1896A) and one BCP (T1762/A1764) mutation was found, but S gene mutation was not detected in any of the samples.
Conclusion: In this population, OHBVI may have a negligible role in the horizontal transmission because of a very low viral load, and PC and core promoter mutations are very rare.