Background: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is divided into 8 definite (A-H) and 2 putative (I, J) genotypes that show a geographical distribution. HBV genotype G, however, is an aberrant genotype of unknown origin that demonstrates severe replication deficiencies and very little genetic variation. It is often found in co-infections with another HBV genotype and infection has been associated with certain risk groups such as intravenous drug users and men having sex with men (MSM). We aimed to estimate the prevalence of HBV-G in the Netherlands by analysing samples from HBV-positive patients visiting the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam.
Methods: Ninety-six HBV-infected patients, genotyped as HBV-A or HBV-G infected, were retrieved from the clinical database. Blood plasma samples were analysed with a newly-developed real-time PCR assay that detects HBV-A and HBV-G. For three patients, the HBV plasma viral load (pVL) of both genotypes was followed longitudinally. In addition, three complete genomes of HBV-G were sequenced to determine their relationship to global HBV-G strains.
Results: Ten HBV-G infections were found in the selected Dutch patients. All concerned HIV-1 infected males with HBV-A co-infection. Dutch HBV-G strains were phylogenetically closely related to reference HBV-G strains.
Conclusions: In this study, HBV-G infection in the Netherlands is found exclusively in HIV-1 infected men as co-infection with HBV-A. A considerable percentage (37%) of men infected with HBV and HIV-1 are actually co- infected with two HBV genotypes.