Effect of hepatitis B virus (HBV) surface-gene variability on markers of replication during treated human immunodeficiency virus-HBV infection in Western Africa

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Background & AimsReplication markers exhibit substantial variation during chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, part of which can be explained by mutations on the surface (S) gene. We aimed to identify S-gene mutations possibly influencing the quantification of HBV replication markers (MUPIQH) in HBV genotype E infection, common to Western Africa.MethodsSeventy-three antiretroviral treatment (ART)-naïve human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-HBV co-infected patients from Côte d'Ivoire, initiating anti-HBV-containing ART, had available HBV S-gene sequences. S-gene MUPIQHs were screened at ART initiation based on lower HBV-DNA or HBsAg quantification (qHBsAg) compared to wildtype. Their association with HBV virological response and qHBsAg slope during treatment was evaluated.ResultsGenotype E was predominant (95.9%). At ART initiation, median HBV-DNA was 7.27 log10 copies/mL (IQR = 5.26-8.33) and qHBsAg 4.08 log10 IU/mL (IQR = 3.49-4.61). Twelve S-gene MUPIQHs were identified among 21 patients (28.8%): sS140L (n = 4), sD144A (n = 1), sS167L (n = 2), sS174N (n = 6), sP178Q (n = 2), sG185L (n = 2), sW191L (n = 2), sP203Q/R (n = 2), sS204N/I/R/K/T/G (n = 7), sN207T (n = 2), sF212C (n = 1) and sV224A/Y (n = 7). MUPIQHs at positions s185+s191+s224 and s178+s204 were within highly covarying networks of S-gene mutations. Older age (P = 0.02), elevated transaminases (P = 0.03) and anti-hepatitis B “e” antibody-positive serology (P = 0.009) were significantly associated with prevalent MUPIQHs at ART initiation. During treatment, baseline MUPIQHs were not associated with time-to-undetectable HBV-DNA (P = 0.7) and qHBsAg levels decreased at similar rates between those with vs without MUPIQHs (P = 0.5).ConclusionSeveral novel S-gene mutations were associated with reductions in replication markers among West African co-infected patients. These mutations, however, do not affect response during antiviral treatment. Their diagnostic and clinical consequences need clarification.

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