, Volume 39, Issue 6, pp 1281-1287

Variations of hepatitis B virus precore/core gene sequence in acute and fulminant hepatitis B

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Variations of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) precore/core sequence has been shown to play a role in the development of active liver disease in chronic hepatitis B. Whether this is also an important viral factor in the pathogenesis of acute and fulminant hepatitis B is unknown. To determine the precore/core gene sequence in patients with acute and fulminant hepatitis B, 11 patients with fulminant hepatitis B and seven patients with acute hepatitis B were studied. The sequences of precore/core gene were determined by direct sequencing of the polymerase chain reaction amplicons generated from the HBV isolated from patients' serum. For the 11 patients with fulminant hepatitis B, the precore/core regions were successfully amplified in 10 patients. Eight patients exhibited precore stop codon mutations. In addition, nine of the 10 fulminant hepatitis B patients had frequent nucleotide substitutions with corresponding changes in the predicted amino acid sequences in the mid-core and the 5′ terminus region of the core gene. In contrast, precore stop codon mutants were not detected, and variations of the HBV core gene were minimal in patients with acute hepatitis B. The association of HBV precore mutants and HBV core gene variations with fulminant hepatitis B and not acute hepatitis B suggested that these variations may be important in modulating the clinical course of HBV infection.