Slave trade and hepatitis B virus genotypes and subgenotypes in Haiti and Africa

Emerg Infect Dis. 2009 Aug;15(8):1222-8. doi: 10.3201/eid1508.081642.


In Haiti, >90% of the population descended from African slaves. Of 7,147 Haitian pregnant women sampled, 44% of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections were caused by genotype A1, which today is found mainly in eastern Africa. Twenty percent belong to a rare subgenotype, A5, which has been found only in the former Bight of Benin, a former primary slave trading post. Haitian A subgenotypes appear to have separated early from the African subgenotypes; the most prevalent genotype and subgenotype in West Africa today (E and A3, respectively) are rare in Haiti. This difference indicates that the dominant subgenotypes in Africa emerged in the general population only after the slave trade and explains the low genetic diversity of genotype E. The high prevalence of HBV genotype E in much of Africa further suggests that HBV hyperendemicity is a recent phenomenon, probably resulting from extensive use of unsafe needles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / complications
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / virology*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Haiti / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis B / complications
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis B / virology*
  • Hepatitis B virus / classification
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics*
  • Hepatitis B virus / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Molecular Epidemiology
  • Phylogeny
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / virology
  • Recombination, Genetic
  • Social Problems*