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High Prevalence of Hepatitis B Subgenotype D4 in Northeast Brazil: an Ancient Relic from African Continent?

Max D. Cruz-Santos, Michele S. Gomes-Gouvêa, Jomar D. Costa-Nunes, Camila Malta-Romano, Marinilde Teles-Sousa, Lena M. Fonseca-Barros, Flair J. Carrilho, Adalgisa de S. Paiva-Ferreira, João R. Rebello-Pinho


Introduction. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection leads to a chronic liver disease that is distributed worldwide. The characterization of HBV into genotypes/subgenotypes is not only a mere procedure for distinguishing different HBV strains around the world because determining their geographic distribution is crucial to understanding their spread across the world. Material and methods. We characterized different HBV genotypes and subgenotypes in five municipalities located in northeastern Maranh�o, in the Brazilian north Atlantic coast. 92 HBsAg-positive individuals were submitted to PCR (polymerase chain reaction). Fifty samples were sequenced using automated Sanger sequencing and classified by phylogenetic methods. Results. Subgenotypes D4 and A1 were found in 42 (84%) and eight (16%) samples, respectively. To our knowledge, this is the first study to describe a high frequency of subgenotype D4 in any population. Subgenotype A1 is frequently found across Brazil, but D4 has been rarely detected and only in a few Brazilian states. This study shows the characterization of HBV subgenotypes from a population based study in the state of Maranh�o, particularly in populations that do not have frequent contact with populations from other regions of the world. Conclusion. Our findings showed a HBV subgenotype profile that probably reflect the viruses that were brought with the slave trade from Africa to Maranh�o. This study also reinforces the need to evaluate the status of HBV dispersion not only in large urban centers, but also in the hinterland, to enable the implementation of effective control and treatment measures.

Key words. HBV., Genotype., Slave trade., Maranh�o.

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The Official Journal of the Mexican Association of Hepatology, the Latin-American Association for the Study of the Liver and the Canadian Association for the Study of the Liver

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