ABSTRACTIntroductionVaccination and anti-viral therapy with nucleos(t)ide analogues (NAs) are key approaches to reducing the morbidity, mortality and transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. However, the efficacy of these interventions may be reduced by the emergence of drug resistance-associated mutations (RAMs) and/or vaccine escape mutations (VEMs). We have assimilated data on the global prevalence and distribution of HBV RAMs/VEMs from publicly available data and explored the evolution of these mutations.MethodsWe analysed sequences downloaded from the Hepatitis B Virus Database, and calculated prevalence of 41 RAMs and 38 VEMs catalogued from published studies. We generated maximum likelihood phylogenetic trees and used treeBreaker to investigate the distribution of selected mutations across tree branches. We performed phylogenetic molecular clock analyses using BEAST to estimate the age of mutations.ResultsRAM M204I/V had the highest prevalence, occurring in 3.8% (109/2838) of all HBV sequences in our dataset, and a significantly higher rate in genotype C sequence at 5.4% (60/1102, p=0.0007). VEMs had an overall prevalence of 1.3% (37/2837) and had the highest prevalence in genotype C and in Asia at 2.2% (24/1102; p=0.002) and 1.6% (34/2109; p=0.009) respectively. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that most RAM/VEMs arose independently, however RAMs including A194T, M204V and L180M formed clusters in genotype B. We show evidence that polymorphisms associated with drug and vaccine resistance may have been present in the mid 20th century suggesting that they can arise independently of treatment/ vaccine exposure.DiscussionHBV RAMs/VEMs have been found globally and across genotypes, with the highest prevalence observed in genotype C variants. Screening for the genotype and for resistant mutations may help to improve stratified patient treatment. As NAs and HBV vaccines are increasingly being deployed for HBV prevention and treatment, monitoring for resistance and advocating for better treatment regimens for HBV remains essential.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory