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Missense mutations in certain small envelope proteins diminish the efficacy of antibodies. Consequently, tracking the incidence and types of vaccine-escape mutations (VEMs) was crucial both before and after the introduction of universal hepatitis B vaccination in Japan in 2016. In this study, we isolated hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA from 58 of 169 hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg)-positive blood samples from Japanese blood donors and determined the nucleotide sequence encoding the small envelope protein. DNA from six (10%) of the samples had VEMs, but no missense mutations, such as G145R, were detected. Complete HBV genome sequences were obtained from 29 of the 58 samples; the viral genotype was A1 in one (3%), A2 in three (10%), B1 in nine (31%), B2 in five (17%), B4 in one (3%), and C2 in 10 (34%) samples. Tenofovir-resistance mutations were detected in two (7%) samples. In addition, several core promoter mutations, such as 1762A>T and 1764G>A, and a precore nonsense mutation, 1986G>A, which are risk factors for HBV-related chronic liver disease, were detected. These findings provide a baseline for future research and highlight the importance of ongoing monitoring of VEMs and drug resistance mutations in HBV DNA from HBsAg-positive blood donors without HBV antibodies.

Original publication





Archives of virology

Publication Date





Division of Infectious Diseases, Advanced Clinical Research Center, Institute of Medical Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.


Humans, Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis B, Chronic, DNA, Viral, Hepatitis B Surface Antigens, Genotype, Mutation, Blood Donors, Japan