An outbreak of hepatitis B with high mortality in India: association with precore, basal core promoter mutants and improperly sterilized syringes


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Abstract

Summary.In 2009, an outbreak of hepatitis B with high mortality was observed in Sabarkantha district, Gujarat state, India with 456 cases and 89 deaths. Hospitalized patients with self-limiting disease (152, AVH)) and fulminant hepatic failure (39, FHF including 27 fatal and 12 survivals) were investigated. These were screened for diagnostic markers for hepatitis viruses, hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotyping and mutant analysis. Complete HBV genomes from 22 FHF and 17 AVH cases were sequenced. Serosurveys were carried out in the most and least affected blocks for the prevalence of HBV and identification of mutants. History of injection from a physician was associated with FHF and AVH cases. Co-infection with other hepatitis viruses or higher HBV DNA load was not responsible for mortality. Four blocks contributed to 85.7% (391/456) of the cases and 95.5% (85/89) mortality while two adjacent blocks had negligible mortality. Sequence analysis showed the presence of pre-core and basal core promoter mutants and 4 amino acid substitutions exclusively among FHF cases. None of the self-limiting patients exhibited these dual mutations. Genotype D was predominant, D1 being present in all FHF cases while D2 was most prevalent in AVH cases. Probably due to violation of accepted infection control procedures by the qualified medical practitioners, HBV prevalence was higher in the affected blocks before the outbreak. Gross and continued use of HBV contaminated (mutant and wild viruses) injection devices led to an explosive outbreak with high mortality with a striking association with pre-C/BCP mutants and D1 genotype.

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