South East Asia has some of the highest prevalence rates of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection (>or=8%) in the world, and the emergence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) mutant strains is a growing problem. Assays with the highest levels of sensitivity, including mutant detection, should be used for routine HBsAg screening. In this large multicenter study, the clinical and technical performance of the fully automated Elecsys HBsAg II assay was compared with the Architect, AxSYM, and Advia Centaur HBsAg assays for HBsAg screening. Nine laboratories (three each from Thailand, Korea, and Singapore) compared the Elecsys HBsAg II assay with their routine HBsAg screening assay against a range of stored and routine clinical samples, including recombinant mutants. The Elecsys HBsAg II assay demonstrated equivalent sensitivity and specificity to the Architect HBsAg assay. However, the Elecsys HBsAg II assay recognized a native mutant sample (L94S, L97V, L98V, T123A) that the Architect HBsAg assay failed to detect. The AxSYM and Advia Centaur HBsAg assays appeared less sensitive for the detection of early HBV infection and also failed to detect some of the recombinant mutant strains. There was almost complete agreement between the Elecsys HBsAg II assay and comparator assays with respect to routine serum samples. The results of this study demonstrate that the Elecsys HBsAg II assay is a highly sensitive and specific screening assay for HBsAg and detects reliably the most important and clinically relevant HBV mutants and genotypes. It is suitable for routine HBsAg screening in Asia.
(c) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.