Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection has shown an intermediate or high endemicity level in low-income countries over the last five decades. In recent years, however, the incidence of acute hepatitis B and the prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen chronic carriers have decreased in several countries because of the HBV universal vaccination programs started in the nineties. Some countries, however, are still unable to implement these programs, particularly in their hyperendemic rural areas. The diffusion of HBV infection is still wide in several low-income countries where the prevention, management and treatment of HBV infection are a heavy burden for the governments and healthcare authorities. Of note, the information on the HBV epidemiology is scanty in numerous eastern European and Latin-American countries. The studies on molecular epidemiology performed in some countries provide an important contribution for a more comprehensive knowledge of HBV epidemiology, and phylogenetic studies provide information on the impact of recent and older migratory flows.
Keywords: Chronic hepatitis; Developing countries; Hepatitis B virus; Molecular epidemiology; Prevention.