Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection remains a major public health threat in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Phylogenetic analysis of HBV can be helpful to study the putative transmission links and patterns of inter-country spread of the virus. The objectives of the current study were to analyze the HBV genotype/sub-genotype (SGT) distribution, reverse transcriptase (), and surface () gene mutations and to investigate the domestic transmission of HBV in the MENA. All HBV molecular sequences collected in the MENA were retrieved from GenBank as of 30 April 2021. Determination of genotypes/SGT, and mutations were based on the Geno2pheno (hbv) 2.0 online tool. For the most prevalent HBV SGTs, maximum likelihood phylogenetic analysis was conducted to identify the putative phylogenetic clusters, with approximate Shimodaira-Hasegawa-like likelihood ratio test values ≥ 0.90, and genetic distance cut-off values ≤ 0.025 substitutions/site as implemented in Cluster Picker. The total number of HBV sequences used for genotype/SGT determination was 4352 that represented a total of 20 MENA countries, with a majority from Iran ( = 2103, 48.3%), Saudi Arabia ( = 503, 11.6%), Tunisia ( = 395, 9.1%), and Turkey ( = 267, 6.1%). Genotype D dominated infections in the MENA (86.6%), followed by genotype A (4.1%), with SGT D1 as the most common in 14 MENA countries and SGT D7 dominance in the Maghreb. The highest prevalence of antiviral drug resistance was observed against lamivudine (4.5%) and telbivudine (4.3%). The proportion of domestic phylogenetic clustering was the highest for SGT D7 (61.9%), followed by SGT D2 (28.2%) and genotype E (25.7%). The largest fraction of domestic clusters with evidence of inter-country spread within the MENA was seen in SGT D7 (81.3%). Small networks (containing 3-14 sequences) dominated among domestic phylogenetic clusters. Specific patterns of HBV genetic diversity were seen in the MENA with SGT D1 dominance in the Levant, Iran, and Turkey; SGT D7 dominance in the Maghreb; and extensive diversity in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. A low prevalence of lamivudine, telbivudine, and entecavir drug resistance was observed in the region, with almost an absence of resistance to tenofovir and adefovir. Variable proportions of phylogenetic clustering indicated prominent domestic transmission of SGT D7 (particularly in the Maghreb) and relatively high levels of virus mobility in SGT D1.
About The Expert
Rabaa Y Athamneh