Hepatitis B virus resistance to nucleos(t)ide analogues

Gastroenterology. 2009 Nov;137(5):1593-608.e1-2. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.08.063. Epub 2009 Sep 6.


Patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) can be successfully treated using nucleos(t)ide analogs (NA), but drug-resistant hepatitis B virus (HBV) mutants frequently arise, leading to treatment failure and progression to liver disease. There has been much research into the mechanisms of resistance to NA and selection of these mutants. Five NA have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for treatment of CHB; it is unlikely that any more NA will be developed in the near future, so it is important to better understand mechanisms of cross-resistance (when a mutation that mediates resistance to one NA also confers resistance to another) and design more effective therapeutic strategies for these 5 agents. The genes that encode the polymerase and envelope proteins of HBV overlap, so resistance mutations in polymerase usually affect the hepatitis B surface antigen; these alterations affect infectivity, vaccine efficacy, pathogenesis of liver disease, and transmission throughout the population. Associations between HBV genotype and resistance phenotype have allowed cross-resistance profiles to be determined for many commonly detected mutants, so genotyping assays can be used to adapt therapy. Patients that experience virologic breakthrough or partial response to their primary therapy can often be successfully treated with a second NA, if this drug is given at early stages of these events. However, best strategies for preventing NA resistance include first-line use of the most potent antivirals with a high barrier to resistance. It is important to continue basic research into HBV replication and pathogenic mechanisms to identify new therapeutic targets, develop novel antiviral agents, design combination therapies that prevent drug resistance, and decrease the incidence of complications of CHB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Resistance, Viral / genetics*
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / virology
  • Humans
  • Nucleosides / agonists*
  • Nucleotides / agonists*
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / genetics*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / therapeutic use


  • Nucleosides
  • Nucleotides
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors
  • RNA-Directed DNA Polymerase