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Keywords:

  • hepatitis B virus;
  • genome;
  • mutations;
  • immunity;
  • liver disease

Abstract

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is at the origin of severe liver diseases like chronic active hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. There are some groups of patients with high risk of generation of HBV mutants: infected infants, immunosupressed individuals (including hemodialysis patients), patients treated with interferon and lamivudine for chronic HBV infection. These groups are the target for molecular investigations reviewed in this paper. The emergence of lamivudine- or other antiviral-resistant variants, rises concern regarding long term use of these drugs. Infection or immunization with one HBV subtype confers immunity to all subtypes. However, reinfection or reactivation of latent HBV infection with HBV mutants have been reported in patients undergoing transplant and those infected with HIV. Mutations of the viral genome which are not replicative incompetent can be selected in further course of infection or under prolonged antiviral treatment and might maintain the liver disease. Four open reading frames (ORF) which are called S-gene, C-gene, X-gene and P-gene were identified within the HBV genome. Mutations may affect each of the ORFs. Mutated S-genes were described to be responsible for HBV-infections in successfully vaccinated persons, mutated C-genes were found to provoke severe chronic liver diseases, mutated X-genes could cause serious medical problemes in blood donors by escaping the conventional test systems and mutated P-genes were considered to be the reason for chemotherapeutic drug resistance. This paper reviews molecular, immunological and clinical aspects of the HBV mutants.