National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Changping District, Beijing, China.
A nationwide hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccination program was implemented in China starting in 1992. To study the change in HBV variant prevalence with massive immunization, large HBV surface protein (LHBs) genes from HBV surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive sera were amplified and sequenced. The prevalences of LHBs mutants were compared between the 1992 and 2005 surveys in child and adult groups. The prevalence of "α" determinant mutants in the children increased from 6.5% in 1992 to 14.8% in 2005, where the G145R mutant occurred most frequently. In contrast, mutation frequencies showed little difference between 1992 (9.4%) and 2005 (9.9%) in adults. Moreover, compared to the 1992 survey, the child group surface (S) protein mutation frequency specifically increased (P = 0.005) in the 2005 survey, but the pre-S region mutation frequency did not show a significant difference (P > 0.05). However, the mutation frequency in the adult group increased in both the pre-S and S regions. Furthermore, the frequencies of the disease-related pre-S2 deletion and start codon mutations were significantly higher in the adult groups than in the child groups in both the 1992 and 2005 surveys (P < 0.01). Massive immunization enhances the HBV S protein mutation; the prevalence of LHBs mutants, particularly disease-related mutants, tends to increase with patient age.