Genetic diversity and worldwide distribution of the deltavirus genus: A study of 2,152 clinical strains

Hepatology. 2017 Dec;66(6):1826-1841. doi: 10.1002/hep.29574. Epub 2017 Oct 30.


Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is responsible for the most severe form of acute and chronic viral hepatitis. We previously proposed that the Deltavirus genus is composed of eight major clades. However, few sequences were available to confirm this classification. Moreover, little is known about the structural and functional consequences of HDV variability. One practical consequence is the failure of most quantification assays to properly detect or quantify plasmatic HDV RNA. Between 2001 and 2014, 2,152 HDV strains were prospectively collected and genotyped in our reference laboratory by means of nucleotide sequencing and extensive phylogenetic analyses of a 400-nucleotide region of the genome (R0) from nucleotides 889 to 1289 encompassing the 3' end of the delta protein-coding gene. In addition, the full-length genome sequence was generated for 116 strains selected from the different clusters, allowing for in-depth characterization of the HDV genotypes and subgenotypes. This study confirms that the HDV genus is composed of eight genotypes (HDV-1 to HDV-8) defined by an intergenotype similarity >85% or >80%, according to the partial or full-length genome sequence, respectively. Furthermore, genotypes can be segregated into two to four subgenotypes, characterized by an intersubgenotype similarity >90% (>84% for HDV-1) over the whole genome sequence. Systematic analysis of genome and protein sequences revealed highly conserved functional nucleotide and amino acid motifs and positions across all (sub)genotypes, indicating strong conservatory constraints on the structure and function of the genome and the protein.

Conclusion: This study provides insight into the genetic diversity of HDV and a clear view of its geographical localization and allows speculation as to the worldwide spread of the virus, very likely from an initial African origin. (Hepatology 2017;66:1826-1841).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Viral
  • Genotype
  • Hepatitis Delta Virus / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeography
  • RNA, Viral / chemistry*


  • RNA, Viral