Low incidence ofprecoreW28* mutant variants in treated hepatitis B virus and human immunodeficiency virus co-infected patients

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The precore (pc) W28* mutation arises from immune-selective pressures during the hepatitis B “e” antigen (HBeAg)-positive phase of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and has been linked to severe liver-related morbidity. Here, we examined the determinants of harboring this mutation and its rate of emergence in treated patients co-infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and HBV. In a three-year prospective cohort of 165 HIV-HBV co-infected patients, pcW28* mutation was determined via DNA-chip during yearly sampling. In a subgroup with liver biopsies, HBV covalently-closed circular (ccc)-DNA and total intrahepatic (IH)-DNA were quantified by real-time PCR. From respective inclusion to year-3 visits, median HBV-DNA levels decreased (5.88 log10 IU/mL to <1.78 log10 IU/mL, p < 0.001) and tenofovir-use increased (15.8%–71.4%, p < 0.001). At baseline, 47 of 162 (29.0%) patients had the pcW28* mutation and were more frequently HBeAg-negative (adjusted-OR = 4.37, 95%CI = 1.76–10.86) and had non-A HBV genotypes (adjusted-OR = 9.14, 95%CI = 4.05–20.66). No association with HIV-related factors was observed. In 114 patients without baseline mutation and available data, four developed incident pcW28* mutation by the end of follow-up (cumulative 3.5%, 95%CI = 1.3–9.1%). In the 32 patients with liver biopsies, 10 (31.3%) patients harboring the pcW28* mutation had significantly lower adjusted mean cccDNA (0.05 versus without = 0.43 copies/cell, p < 0.001) and total IH-DNA levels (2.31 versus without = 18.59 copies/cell, p = 0.006). In conclusion, the pcW28* mutation infrequently appeared in this co-infected study population with increased use of potent antivirals and suppressed levels of circulating virus.

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