To investigate the prevalence and virological characteristics of occult hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections in patients with hematological malignancies in South Egypt.
Serum samples were collected from 165 patients with hematological malignancies to monitor titers of HBV DNA, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), and antibodies to HBV core (anti-HBc) and surface antigens. Serum samples negative for HBsAg and positive for anti-HBc were subjected to nucleic acid extraction and HBV DNA detection by real-time polymerase chain reaction. DNA sequences spanning the S region were analyzed in cases with occult HBV infection. In vitro comparative study of constructed 1.24-fold wild type and S protein mutant HBV genotype D clones was further performed.
HBV DNA was detected in 23 (42.6%) of 54 patients with hematological malignancies who were HBsAg negative, but anti-HBc positive, suggesting the presence of occult HBV infection. The complete HBV genome was retrieved from 6 occult HBV patients, and P120T and S143L were detected in 3 and 2 cases, respectively. Site directed mutagenesis was done to produce 1.24-fold genotype D clones with amino acid mutations T120 and L143. Thein vitro analyses revealed that a lower level of extracellular HBsAg was detected by chemiluminescence enzyme immunoassay (CLEIA) with the clone containing T120 mutation, compared with the wild type or the clone with S143L mutation despite the similar levels of extracellular and intracellular HBsAg detected by Western blot. Southern blot experiments showed that the levels of intracellular HBV DNA were not different between these clones.
Occult HBV infection is common in patients with hematological malignancies and associated with P120T and S143L mutations. 120T mutation impairs the detection of HBsAg by CLEIA.