Background & aims: Recent studies suggest that hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotype B is associated with less active liver disease than HBV genotype C. The aim of our study was to determine if HBV genotype B is associated with higher rates of spontaneous hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) seroconversion compared with genotype C.
Methods: A retrospective study using stored sera from 332 Chinese patients with chronic HBV infection followed for a mean of 48 months (range, 12-98) were tested for HBV genotype using a line-probe assay.
Results: HBV DNA was detected in 273 patients, 122 had HBV genotype B and 147 genotype C. Patients with genotype B had a significantly lower prevalence of HBeAg at presentation and significantly higher rates of spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion during follow-up. HBV genotype B patients who were HBeAg positive were significantly younger, and spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion occurred approximately 1 decade earlier compared with HBV genotype C patients. Multivariate analyses identified high alanine aminotransferase (baseline and follow-up), age >30 years, and genotype B as independent factors associated with spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion.
Conclusions: HBV genotype B is associated with earlier HBeAg seroconversion than genotype C. This finding may explain the less active/progressive liver disease in patients with genotype B.