High rates of chronic HBV genotype E infection in a group of migrants in Italy from West Africa: Virological characteristics associated with poor immune clearance.
ABSTRACT: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotype E almost exclusively occurs in African people, and its presence is more commonly associated with the development of chronic HBV (CHB) infection. Moreover, an epidemiological link has been found between the distribution of HBV genotype E infection and African countries with high incidences of hepatocellular carcinoma. As part of a programme for the health assessment of migrants, we evaluated 358 young African subjects for HBV infection; 58.1% (208/358) were positive for an HBV marker, and 54 (25.5%) had CHB. Eighty-one percent of the CHB subjects were infected with HBV genotype E, with a median serum HBV-DNA of 3.2 (IQR: 2.7-3.6) logIU/ml. All patients had high serum HBsAg titres (10,899 [range 5,359-20,272] IU/ml), and no correlation was found between HBsAg titres and HBV-DNA plasma levels. RT sequence analysis showed the presence of a number of immune escape mutations: strains from all of the patients had a serine at HBsAg position 140; 3 also had T116N, Y100C, and P142L+S143L substitutions; and 1 had a G112R substitution. Six (18%) patients had stop-codons at position 216. In 5 of the 9 (26.5%) CHB patients, ultrasound liver biopsy, quantification of total intrahepatic HBV-DNA and cccDNA, and RT/HBsAg sequencing were performed. The median (IQR) total intrahepatic HBV-DNA was 766 (753-1139) copies/1000 cells, and the median (IQR) cccDNA was 17 (10-27) copies/1000 cells. Correlations were observed for both total intrahepatic HBV-DNA and cccDNA with serum HBV-DNA, while no correlation was found for the HBsAg titres. A difference of 2.5/1,000 nucleotides was found in the HBsAg sequences obtained from plasma and from liver tissue, with 3 cases of possible viral anatomical compartmentalization. In conclusion, a high rate of CHB infection due to the E genotype was demonstrated in a group of immigrants from Western Africa. An analysis of the viral strains obtained showed the virological characteristics of immune escape, which may be the cause of viral replication persistence. Moreover, a fair percentage of stop codon mutations were found. The lack of correlation between HBsAg titres and plasma or intrahepatic HBV-DNA found in these subjects suggests a pathway of virus production that is not linked to HBsAg secretion. Studies with a larger number of patients with CHB due to the E genotype are advisable to corroborate these observations.
Project description:The study was designed to investigate whether serum hepatitis B virus (HBV) RNA is a strong surrogate marker for intrahepatic HBV covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) compared with serum HBV DNA, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), and hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) in HBeAg-positive chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients. Serum HBV RNA, HBV DNA, HBsAg, HBeAg, and intrahepatic cccDNA were quantitatively detected at baseline (<i>n</i> = 82) and 96 weeks (<i>n</i> = 62) after treatment with nucleos(t)ide analogue (NUC) in HBeAg-positive CHB patients. The correlations among serum HBV RNA, HBV DNA, HBsAg, HBeAg, and intrahepatic cccDNA levels were then statistically analyzed. The results showed that pretreatment intrahepatic cccDNA levels correlated better with serum HBV DNA levels (<i>r</i> = 0.36, <i>P</i> < 0.01) than with serum HBV RNA levels (<i>r</i> = 0.25, <i>P</i> = 0.02), whereas no correlations were found between pretreatment intrahepatic cccDNA levels and HBsAg (<i>r</i> = 0.15, <i>P</i> = 0.17) or HBeAg (<i>r</i> = 0.07, <i>P</i> = 0.56) levels. At 96 weeks after NUC treatment, intrahepatic cccDNA levels correlated well with HBsAg levels (<i>r</i> = 0.39, <i>P</i> < 0.01) but not with serum HBV RNA, HBV DNA, and HBeAg levels (all <i>P</i> > 0.05). Besides, the decline in the intrahepatic cccDNA level from baseline to week 96 correlated better with the reduction in the serum HBsAg levels than with the decreases in the levels of the other markers (for the HBsAg decline, <i>r</i> = 0.38, <i>P</i> < 0.01; for the HBV DNA decline, <i>r</i> = 0.35, <i>P</i> = 0.01; for the HBV RNA decline, <i>r</i> = 0.28, <i>P</i> < 0.05; for the HBeAg decline, <i>r</i> = 0.18, <i>P</i> = 0.19). In conclusion, the baseline serum HBV RNA level or its decline after 96 weeks of NUC therapy correlated with the corresponding intrahepatic cccDNA level, while it was less than that seen with serum HBV DNA at baseline and HBsAg (or its decline) at 96 weeks after treatment, respectively.
Project description:As alternative indexes of hepatitis B virus (HBV), covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) transcriptional activity, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), hepatitis B core-related antigen (HBcrAg), and peripheral blood RNA known as pgRNA, have been advocated as novel serum markers for prediction of prognosis and treatment response in chronic hepatitis B (CHB). Since the availability of commercial quantitative assays of HBsAg in 2011, HBsAg has been widely used for predicting treatment response of patients with CHB. Patients who received interferon therapy have shown a sharper reduction of HBsAg level than those who received nucleoside drug (NAs) therapy. Upon peginterferon treatment, sustained responders have presented a larger reduction of HBsAg level than the non-responders. An absence of HBsAg decline, together with < 2log reduction in HBV DNA at week 12, can serve as a stopping rule in HBsAg-negative patients infected with genotype D HBV. A sharp reduction of HBsAg titer in the NAs therapy is a predictor of HBsAg clearance in long-term treatment. HBcrAg, which consists of three species of related proteins sharing an identical 149 amino acid sequence, including HbcAg, hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg), and a truncated 22-kDa precore protein, is still detectable in situations where serum HBV DNA levels become undetectable or HBsAg loss is achieved. Therefore, HBcrAg remains a measurable serum marker to correlate with cccDNA in this situation. The decline in HBcrAg has been observed with NAs therapy and the pattern of decline might provide prognostic information on the risk of HBV post-treatment reactivation. Peripheral blood RNA, which is known as pgRNA, directly derives from cccDNA and reflects intrahepatic cccDNA level. Quantitative pgRNA has been suggested to be helpful in CHB management. However, commercial quantitative assays are lacking. Additionally, the use of simultaneous and continuous clearance of HBV RNA and HBV DNA in serum has been suggested to be a safe stopping rule of NAs therapy for patients with CHB. However, clinical studies of large sample sizes are needed to prove the feasibility and significance of using serum HBV RNA as the assessment standard of antiviral therapy in CHB and the safety of the stopping rule in clinics.
Project description:The purpose of this study was to explore the correlations of serum hepatitis B core-related antigen (HBcrAg) with intrahepatic Hepatitis B virus (HBV) covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) and HBV total DNA in hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg)-positive chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients. Serum HBcrAg and other parameters, including HBV DNA, HBV RNA, HBeAg, hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), hepatitis B core antibody (anti-HBc), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) were quantitatively measured at baseline and follow-up time points. Intrahepatic HBV cccDNA and total DNA were quantitatively detected at baseline and 96 weeks. Grading of liver necroinflammation and staging of hepatic fibrosis were assessed at baseline and 96 weeks. Correlations between serum HBcrAg and other parameters were analyzed by Pearson's correlation analysis. The results showed that pretreatment HBcrAg correlated significantly with HBV total DNA levels (r = 0.328, P = 0.003) in 82 CHB patients, and, after removing three outliers, with intrahepatic HBV cccDNA (r = 0.323, P = 0.004; n = 79). Serum HBcrAg correlated better with HBV cccDNA in patients with lower levels of serum HBV DNA (stratified by 7 log IU/ml of HBV DNA; r = 0.656, P = 0.003 versus r = -0.02, P = 0.866). Significant inverse correlations were found between HBcrAg and grade of liver necroinflammation (r = -0.245, P = 0.037), stage of hepatic fibrosis (r = -0.360, P = 0.002) at baseline. Serum HBcrAg presented significant correlation with intrahepatic HBV cccDNA in patients with HBeAg seroconversion at 96 weeks (r = 0.622, P = 0.006). The decrease in HBcrAg showed significant correlation with the decrease in HBV cccDNA after 96-week NA therapy (r = 0.282, P = 0.043). Serum HBcrAg also correlated significantly with other serum markers at baseline and 96 weeks of NA therapy. In conclusion, baseline HBcrAg and its decreased value were significantly correlated with the corresponding intrahepatic HBV cccDNA.
Project description:Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis delta virus (HDV) interplay was investigated by examining liver and serum samples from 21 coinfected and 22 HBV-monoinfected patients with chronic liver disease. Different real-time PCR assays were applied to evaluate intrahepatic amounts of HBV DNA, covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), pregenomic RNA (pgRNA), pre-S/S RNAs, and HDV RNA. Besides HBV DNA and HDV RNA levels, HBsAg concentrations in the sera were also determined. HDV-coinfected cases showed significantly lower median levels of serum HBV DNA (-5 log), intrahepatic relaxed-circular DNA (-2 log), and cccDNA (-2 log) than those of HBV-monoinfected cases. Interestingly, pgRNA and pre-S/S RNA amounts were significantly lower (both -1 log) in HDV-positive patients, whereas serum HBsAg concentrations were comparable between the two patient groups. Pre-S/S RNA and HBsAg amounts per cccDNA molecule were higher in HDV-positive patients (3-fold and 1 log, respectively), showing that HBV replication was reduced, whereas synthesis of envelope proteins was not specifically decreased. The ratios of cccDNA to intracellular total HBV DNA showed a larger proportion of cccDNA molecules in HDV-positive cases. For these patients, both intrahepatic and serum HDV RNA amounts were associated with cccDNA but not with HBsAg or HBV DNA levels. Finally, HBV genomes with large deletions in the basal core promoter/precore region were detected in 5/21 HDV-positive patients but in no HDV-negative patients and were associated with lower viremia levels. These findings provide significant information about the interference exerted by HDV on HBV replication and transcription activities in the human liver.
Project description:Methodology for accurate quantification of intra-hepatic cccDNA has long been a technical challenge, yet it is highly desired in the clinic. Here, we developed a sensitive method for quantification of intrahepatic cccDNA in liver biopsies from patients, which allowed to predict patient's response to interferon therapy at baseline. Twenty-five patients with HBeAg+ CHB were recruited and liver biopsies were obtained at baseline and 1-year after interferon treatment, respectively. Both intrahepatic cccDNA and HBV DNA were absolutely quantified by a droplet digital PCR amplification system. Patients were categorized as either responder or non-responder group based on their HBeAg status 1-year after interferon therapy. Levels of both intrahepatic HBV DNA and HBV cccDNA were significantly reduced after interferon treatment among the responders, but not the non-responders, in comparison with their levels at baseline. Baseline values of intrahepatic HBV DNA over cccDNA significantly correlated with patient's response to PEG-IFN therapy (P?=?0.000). In addition, HBeAg seroconversion also correlates with a significant reduction in intrahepatic pgRNA production among the responders after interferon therapy (P?=?0.030). In conclusion, our results suggest that baseline value of intrahepatic HBV DNA over cccDNA may be a preferable indicator for selecting appropriate patients for IFN-based therapy in the clinic.
Project description:The hepatitis B virus (HBV) cannot be removed completely from infected hepatocytes, owing to the presence of intrahepatic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA). As chronic hepatitis B (CHB) can progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), predicting HCC development in high-risk patients with high viral replicative activity or advanced fibrosis is important. Novel serological biomarkers reflect intrahepatic viral replicative activity or the progression of liver fibrosis, indicating non-invasive alternatives to liver biopsy: (1) Hepatitis B core-related antigen (HBcrAg) correlates with serum HBV DNA and intrahepatic cccDNA. In CHB patients, a decrease in HBcrAg is associated with favorable outcomes. HBcrAg can predict HCC occurrence or recurrence. (2) Measurement of the Mac-2 binding protein glycosylation isomer (M2BPGi) has been introduced for the evaluation of liver fibrosis. An increase in M2BPGi in CHB patients is related to the progression of liver fibrosis and high potential (risk) of HCC development. Here, we describe the clinical applications of HBcrAg and M2BPGi in CHB patients. Additionally, because new potential therapeutic agents that eliminate intrahepatic cccDNA are being developed, monitoring of HBcrAg or M2BPGi might be suitable for evaluating therapeutic effects and the clinical outcomes. In conclusion, these would be appropriate surrogate markers for predicting disease progression.
Project description:Persistence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) under current antiviral therapy is a major barrier to eradication of chronic hepatitis B (CHB). Curing CHB will require novel strategies for specific disruption of cccDNA. The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 system is a newly developed tool for site-specific cleavage of DNA targets directed by a synthetic guide RNA (gRNA) base-paired to the target DNA sequence. To examine whether this system can cleave HBV genomes, we designed eight gRNAs against HBV of genotype A. With the HBV-specific gRNAs, the CRISPR/Cas9 system significantly reduced the production of HBV core and surface proteins in Huh-7 cells transfected with an HBV-expression vector. Among eight screened gRNAs, two effective ones were identified. Interestingly, one gRNA targeting the conserved HBV sequence acted against different genotypes. Using a hydrodynamics-HBV persistence mouse model, we further demonstrated that this system could cleave the intrahepatic HBV genome-containing plasmid and facilitate its clearance in vivo, resulting in reduction of serum surface antigen levels. These data suggest that the CRISPR/Cas9 system could disrupt the HBV-expressing templates both in vitro and in vivo, indicating its potential in eradicating persistent HBV infection.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Chronic Hepatitis B (CHB) remains a major problem for global public health. Viral persistence and immune defects are the two major reasons for CHB, and it was hypothesized that based on a transient clearance of serum viral DNA and HBsAg "window stage", active immunization against hepatitis B virus (HBV) might initiate effective host immune responses versus HBV to achieve functional cure of CHB. METHODS:Two experimental mouse models that mice hydrodynamic injected HBV DNA or infected with recombinant AAV/HBV were used. The "sandwich" therapeutic effect by using a potent human anti-HBsAg neutralizing monoclonal antibody (G12) in combination with antiviral drug tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF), followed by active immunization with HBsAg-HBsAb (mYIC) was evaluated. FINDINGS:A single G12 injection rapidly cleared serum HBsAg in HDI-HBV carrier mice, with a synergistic effect in decreasing viral DNA load when TDF was given orally. When both serum viral DNA and HBsAg load became low or undetectable, mYIC was administered. A more effective clearance of viral DNA and HBsAg was observed and serum HBsAb was developed only in these "sandwich"-treated mice. Efficient intrahepatic anti-HBV immune responses were also observed in these mice, including the formation of aggregates of myeloid cells with CD8+T cells and increased TNF-?, granzyme B production. INTERPRETATION:The "sandwich" combination therapy not only efficiently decreased HBsAg and HBV DNA levels but also induced effective cellular and humoral immunity, which may result in functional cure of CHB.
Project description:BACKGROUND:A functional cure of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) is feasible, but a clear view of the intrahepatic viral dynamics in each patient is needed. Intrahepatic covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) is the stable form of the viral genome in infected cells, and represents the ideal marker of parenchymal colonization. Its relationships with easily accessible peripheral parameters need to be elucidated in order to avoid invasive procedures in patients. OBJECTIVES:The goal of this study was to design, set up, and validate a reliable and straightforward method for the quantification of the cccDNA and total DNA of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) in a variety of clinical samples. PATIENTS AND METHODS:Clinical samples from a cohort of CHB patients, including liver biopsies in some, were collected for the analysis of intracellular HBV molecular markers using novel molecular assays. RESULTS:A plasmid construct, including sequences from the HBV genome and from the human gene hTERT, was generated as an isomolar multi-standard for HBV quantitation and normalization to the cellular contents. The specificity of the real-time assay for the cccDNA was assessed using Dane particles isolated on a density gradient. A comparison of liver tissue from 6 untreated and 6 treated patients showed that the treatment deeply reduced the replicative capacity (total DNA/cccDNA), but had limited impact on the parenchymal colonization. The peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and granulocytes from the treated and untreated patients were also analyzed. CONCLUSIONS:A straightforward method for the quantification of intracellular HBV molecular parameters in clinical samples was developed and validated. The widespread use of such versatile assays could better define the prognosis of CHB, and allow a more rational approach to time-limited tailored treatment strategies.
Project description:The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a DNA virus that can cause chronic hepatitis B (CHB) in humans. Current therapies for CHB infection are limited in efficacy and do not target the pre-existing viral genomic DNA, which are present in the nucleus as a covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) form. The transcription activator-like (TAL) effector nucleases (TALENs) are newly developed enzymes that can cleave sequence-specific DNA targets. Here, TALENs targeting the conserved regions of the viral genomic DNA among different HBV genotypes were constructed. The expression of TALENs in Huh7 cells transfected with monomeric linear full-length HBV DNA significantly reduced the viral production of HBeAg, HBsAg, HBcAg, and pgRNA, resulted in a decreased cccDNA level and misrepaired cccDNAs without apparent cytotoxic effects. The anti-HBV effect of TALENs was further demonstrated in a hydrodynamic injection-based mouse model. In addition, an enhanced antiviral effect with combinations of TALENs and interferon-? (IFN-?) treatment was observed and expression of TALENs restored HBV suppressed IFN-stimulated response element-directed transcription. Taken together, these data indicate that TALENs can specifically target and successfully inactivate the HBV genome and are potently synergistic with IFN-?, thus providing a potential therapeutic strategy for treating CHB infection.