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ABSTRACTInternational sustainable development goals for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health problem by 2030 highlight the pressing need to optimize strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Selected or transmitted resistance associated mutations (RAMs) and vaccine escape mutations (VEMs) in hepatitis B virus (HBV) may reduce the success of existing treatment and prevention strategies. These issues are particularly pertinent for many settings in Africa where there is high HBV prevalence and co-endemic HIV infection, but lack of robust epidemiological data and limited education, diagnostics and clinical care. The prevalence, distribution and impact of RAMs and VEMs in these populations are neglected in the current literature. We therefore set out to assimilate data for sub-Saharan Africa through a systematic literature review and analysis of published sequence data, and present these in an on-line database ( The majority of the data were from HIV/HBV coinfected cohorts. The commonest RAM was rtM204I/V, either alone or in combination with compensatory mutations, and identified in both reportedly treatment-naïve and treatment-experienced adults. We also identified the suite of mutations rtM204V/I + rtL180M + rtV173L, that has been associated with vaccine escape, in over 1/3 of cohorts. Although tenofovir has a high genetic barrier to resistance, it is of concern that emerging data suggest polymorphisms that may be associated with resistance, although the precise clinical impact of these is unknown. Overall, there is an urgent need for improved diagnostic screening, enhanced laboratory assessment of HBV before and during therapy, and sustained roll out of tenofovir in preference to lamivudine alone. Further data are needed in order to inform population and individual approaches to HBV diagnosis, monitoring and therapy in these highly vulnerable settings.Author’s summaryThe Global Hepatitis Health Sector Strategy is aiming for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. However, mutations associated with drug resistance and vaccine escape may reduce the success of existing treatment and prevention strategies. In the current literature, the prevalence, distribution and impact of hepatitis B virus (HBV) mutations in many settings in Africa are neglected, despite the high prevalence of HBV and co-endemic HIV infection. This systematic review describes the frequency, prevalence and co-occurrence of mutations associated with HBV drug resistance and vaccine escape mutations in Africa. The findings suggest a high prevalence of these mutations in some populations in sub-Saharan Africa. Scarce resources have contributed to the lack of HBV diagnostic screening, inconsistent supply of drugs, and poor access to clinical monitoring, all of which contribute to drug and vaccine resistance. Sustainable long-term investment is required to expand consistent drug and vaccine supply, to provide screening to diagnose infection and to detect drug resistance, and to provide appropriate targeted clinical monitoring for treated patients.

Original publication




Journal article


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

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