Novel hepatitis B virus reverse transcriptase mutations in patients with sustained viremia despite long-term tenofovir treatment

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Background: Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) treatment consists of nucleos(t)ide analogues to suppress viral replication. The HBV inhibitor tenofovir has a high barrier to resistance, however, evidence of virus-escape is emerging. This study investigates HBV evolution in patients undergoing tenofovir treatment with the primary aim to assess the emergence of putative resistance mutations. Methods: HBV DNA was extracted from blood samples of two patients with HBeAg-positive chronic HBV infection and persistent viremia despite tenofovir treatment, and subsequently amplified by PCR before full-length HBV genomes were assembled by deep sequencing. The mutation linkage within the viral population was evaluated by clonal analysis of amplicons. Results: Sequence analysis of HBV, derived from 11 samples collected 2010-2020 from one patient, identified 12 non-synonymous single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) emerging during a tenofovir treatment interruption from 2014 to 2017. Two of the SNPs were in the reverse transcriptase (RT; H35Q and D263E). The two RT mutations were linked and persisted despite restarting tenofovir treatment in 2017. For the second patient, we analyzed HBV derived from six samples collected 2014-2020 following 10 years of tenofovir treatment, and identified five non-synonymous SNPs, that confer resistance towards entecavir and/or lamivudine. Two RT mutations (H35N and P237T) emerged during subsequent 5-year entecavir treatment. H35N was maintained during final tenofovir treatment. Conclusions: Our findings indicate that changes at the conserved residue 35 (H35N/Q) in the HBV RT may be associated with tenofovir resistance. These variants have not previously been described, and further studies are warranted to assess resistance in vitro and in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105159
JournalJournal of Clinical Virology
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2022

    Research areas

  • DANHEP, Hepatitis B virus infection, Hepatitis B virus sequencing, Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, Tenofovir resistance

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