Frequency of hepatitis B surface antigen variants (HBsAg) in hepatitis B virus genotype B and C infected East- and Southeast Asian patients: Detection by the Elecsys® HBsAg II assay

J Clin Virol. 2018 Jun;103:48-56. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2018.04.005. Epub 2018 Apr 5.


Background: To avoid false negative results, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) assays need to detect samples with mutations in the immunodominant 'a' determinant region, which vary by ethnographic region.

Objective: We evaluated the prevalence and type of HBsAg mutations in a hepatitis B virus (HBV)-infected East- and Southeast Asian population, and the diagnostic performance of the Elecsys® HBsAg II Qualitative assay.

Study design: We analyzed 898 samples from patients with HBV infection from four sites (China [Beijing and Guangzhou], Korea and Vietnam). HBsAg mutations were detected and sequenced using highly sensitive ultra-deep sequencing and compared between the first (amino acids 124-137) and second (amino acids 139-147) loops of the 'a' determinant region using the Elecsys® HBsAg II Qualitative assay.

Results: Overall, 237 distinct amino acid mutations in the major hydrophilic region were identified; mutations were present in 660 of 898 HBV-infected patient samples (73.5%). Within the pool of 237 distinct mutations, the majority of the amino acid mutations were found in HBV genotype C (64.8%). We identified 25 previously unknown distinct mutations, mostly prevalent in genotype C-infected Korean patients (n = 18) followed by Chinese (n = 12) patients. All 898 samples were correctly identified by the Elecsys® HBsAg II Qualitative assay.

Conclusions: We observed 237 distinct (including 25 novel) mutations, demonstrating the complexity of HBsAg variants in HBV-infected East- and Southeast Asian patients. The Elecsys® HBsAg II Qualitative assay can reliably detect HBV-positive samples and is suitable for routine diagnostic use in East and Southeast Asia.

Keywords: Detection; HBsAg mutations; Hepatitis B; Immunoassay; Immunodominant ‘a’ determinant region; Screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asian People
  • China
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genotype*
  • Hepatitis B / virology*
  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens / genetics*
  • Hepatitis B virus / classification*
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics
  • Hepatitis B virus / isolation & purification*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Immunoassay / methods*
  • Mutant Proteins / genetics
  • Prevalence
  • Republic of Korea
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Vietnam


  • Hepatitis B Surface Antigens
  • Mutant Proteins