Source Centre for Hepatology, University College London Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill Street Hampstead, London, NW3 2PF, UK, Sudeep.Tanwar@nhs.net.
Hepatitis B may cause a varying spectrum of diseases ranging from an asymptomatic or mild anicteric acute illness, to severe or fulminant hepatitis. Similarly, the outcome of chronic hepatitis B is variable. Viral factors associated with outcome of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection include hepatitis B e antigen status, HBV DNA, genotype, and HBV variants. HBV genotypes and subgenotypes have been associated with differences in clinical and virological characteristics, indicating that they may play a role in the virus-host relationship. A total of ten hepatitis B virus genotypes have been defined with a distinct geographical distribution. Hitherto, genotypes A, B, C and D have been studied most extensively.
The HBV genotype appears to influence not only the natural history of HBV related liver disease but also the response to HBV treatment. HBV genotypes are also linked with both core promoter and BCP mutations. Progression to chronic infection appears to occur more frequently following acute infection with genotypes A and D than with the other studied genotypes. Genotypes A and B appear to have higher rates of spontaneous HBeAg seroconversion. More advanced liver disease and progression to HCC is more often seen in chronic infection with genotypes C and D in contrast to genotypes A and B. More specifically, genotypes A1, C, B2-B5 and H appear to be associated with more serious complications than genotypes A2, B1 and B6. These observations suggest important pathogenic differences between HBV genotypes. Genotypes A and B have higher response rates to interferon based therapy than genotypes C and D. Knowledge of HBV genotype enables clinicians to identify those patients at increased risk of disease progression whilst aiding the selection of appropriate antiviral therapy.
Genotyping and monoclonal subtyping can provide useful information for epidemiological studies. In conclusion, genotyping of chronic HBV infections can help practicing physicians identify those at risk of disease progression and determine optimal anti-viral therapy.