Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can be classified into nine immunological subtypes or eight genotypes. The most prevalent genotypes in Asia are genotypes B and C. HBV is transmitted parenteraly and can produce either asymptomatic or symptomatic disease. Although the consequences of acute hepatitis B can be severe, serious sequelae are associated with chronic infections. HBV seroprevalence ranges from intermediate (2%-7%) to high (≥8%) levels in Asia. Several strategies for the control and prevention of HBV infection have been found to be efficacious. They include vaccination and the administration of HBIG, interferon-a and nucleoside/nucleotide analogues. However, these procedures also apply selective pressures on HBV in infected individuals leading to the generation and accumulation of mutations in the S gene. Most of these mutations occur in the major hydrophilic region (MHR) of the S gene. These mutations create public health concerns as they can be responsible for reactivation of hepatitis B and occult hepatitis B infection. The inability to detect occult infections means that these individuals may become blood donors. This suggests that new strategies for donor evaluation and selection may need to be developed to protect the blood supply.
Keywords: Escape mutants; genotype; hepatitis B virus; review; subtype; surface antigen.