Introduction Hepatitis B is a major cause of death in patients with HIV who usually receive drugs active against hepatitis B virus (HBV). The variability of HBV DNA over time has been little studied. Recombination between different HBV genotypes has been described in many cross-sectional studies, but the frequency of intergenotypic and intragenotypic recombinations in individual patients is unknown.
Methods 32 HIV-positive and 11 HIV-negative patients who remained HBV viraemic despite antiviral therapy for at least 1 year were studied. Genotyping was based on line probe assays and genotype-specific PCR. The variability of HBV DNA over time was examined with restriction length and single-strand conformational polymorphism (RFLP-SSCP). HBV DNA sequences obtained by cloning a 2800 bp PCR fragment were analysed for phylogenetic parameters (diversity and selection pressure) and recombination was detected with RDP3 software.
Results Large fragments of HBV DNA could be amplified at two different time points in 33 patients. Marked quasi-species modifications occurred in 14 patients. In seven of these patients and in one patient with no change detectable by RFLP-SSCP, the 2800 bp fragment was cloned at two time points at least. In four (57%) of these seven patients, various intergenotypic or intragenotypic recombination events were detected between subvariants present in the initial quasi-species. Recombinant fragments mostly harboured antiviral resistance determinants and reflected a large increase in diversity and in positive selection pressure on the entire HBV quasi-species.
Conclusions In coinfected patients, HBV DNA recombination events are frequent during antiviral therapy, corresponding to increased positive selection pressure on the HBV quasi-species and to conservation of antiviral resistance mutations. In this population and at the individual level, recombination is a significant source of HBV genetic variability.
- HBV recombination
- antiviral therapy
- selection pressure
- hepatitis B
- molecular genetics
- acute hepatitis
- chronic viral hepatitis
- hepatitis A
- parasitic diseases
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Funding Supported by a grant from the French Agency for Research on HIV and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS) and by the Region Pays-de-Loire.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Ethical approval was received from the ethical committees of Bichat University Hospital, Paul Brousse Hospital and Hotel-Dieu University Hospital.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement Any additional unpublished data concerning the presented results are available from the authors.