Molecular characterization of hepatitis B virus in blood donors in Botswana

Wonderful T Choga, Motswedi Anderson, Edward Zumbika, Sikhulile Moyo, Tshepiso Mbangiwa, Bonolo B Phinius, Pinkie Melamu, Mukendi K Kayembe, Ishmael Kasvosve, Theresa K Sebunya, Jason T Blackard, Max Essex, Rosemary M Musonda, Simani Gaseitsiwe
Virus Genes 2018 October 31
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) poses a significant threat to blood transfusion safety in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where allogeneic blood donations are screened serologically, and more sensitive nucleic acid tests (NATs) are utilized infrequently. HBV strains circulating among blood donors in Botswana are not yet characterized. We designed a cross-sectional study to determine the HBV sub-genotypes and prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) among blood donors between November 2014 and October 2015. A total of 12,575 blood donations were screened for HBsAg and 50 consecutive plasma samples were selected for genotyping from confirmed HBsAg+ donations. Overlapping Pol and complete S (Pol/S) open reading frames (ORFs) were sequenced from extracted HBV DNA. To identify any signature amino acids, mutations were compared to sequences from a cohort of chronic HBV patients co-infected with HIV and were treatment naïve. The prevalence of HBsAg+ blood donors was 1.02% (95% CI 0.9-1.2%), and the circulating sub-genotypes were A1 serotype adw2 (36.1%), D2 serotype ayw2 (2.9%), and D3 serotypes ayw 1/2 (58.3%). Prevalence of escape mutations was 14% from HBV isolates of blood donors and 15% from isolates of HBV/HIV co-infected patients (p = 0.6926). The escape mutations sP120L, sG130R, sY134H, and sD144A were identified predominantly among HBV isolates from blood donors. These escape mutations have been associated with accelerated HBV sequelae [e.g., liver cirrhosis (LC) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)], failure to detect HBsAg, inability to respond to immunoglobulin (Ig) therapy, and HBV vaccine escape. Characterizing the HBV burden, circulating sub-genotypes, and clinically relevant mutations among blood donors in Botswana is important to elucidate the efficacy of currently available vaccines, predicting HBV-transmission patterns, understanding the cohort's risk to HBV-related complications, and to developing prevention strategies and effective genotype-based antiretroviral therapies.

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