A wide variety of commercial assays is available for the detection of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). Clearly, the sensitivity of an assay to detect a variant is dependent on the anti-HBs usage. Thus, it is not surprising that there are examples of variants that cannot be detected by all assays. Data from Europe, Asia and Africa about HBsAg variants which are not recognized by either monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies specific for wild-type group 'a' determinant, but positive by DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in chronic patients and from vaccinated children are increasing. This would impose a challenge for public health issues of hepatitis B virus. In this review we tried to summarize the discrepancies between results of HBsAg assays and to explain some rationales for these inconsistencies.
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