The transplacental route of vertical transmission of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) has been known for over a decade. Here we present evidence which suggest HBV can replicate in placenta. Forty-one HBsAg positive and 10 control pregnant women were enrolled in the study after obtaining informed consent. HBV positives were further divided in the High Viral Load (HVL) Group and Low Viral Load (LVL) Group according to INASL guidelines 2018. The Presence of the HBV DNA and expression of NTCP in the placenta was analyzed by qPCR/RT-qPCR and/or immunohistochemistry (IHC). The presence of cccDNA was assessed using Digital Droplet PCR while the presence of pre-genomic (pg) RNA was assessed through qRT-PCR and sequencing. The presence of HBeAg and HBcAg in the placenta was assessed by IHC. Immunostaining of NTCP, HBeAg and HBcAg on trophoblasts along with the presence of total HBV DNA, cccDNA and pgRNA indicated, that these cells are not only susceptible to HBV infection but may also support viral replication. This is further supported by the finding that trophoblasts of the several HBeAg seronegative samples harbored the HBeAg. Although, we did not find any correlation in NTCP expression and viral markers with viral load indicates placental replication may not aping hepatocytes. The presence of the HBV receptor, NTCP along with the presence of cccDNA, pgRNA, and HBeAg in placenta of HBV infected females without circulating HBeAg suggest that placenta act as a replication host.
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