Transmission of hepatitis B virus infection in Gambian families revealed by phylogenetic analysis.
Dumpis U., Holmes EC., Mendy M., Hill A., Thursz M., Hall A., Whittle H., Karayiannis P.
BACKGROUND/AIMS: Transmission of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in Africa occurs horizontally, with most people becoming infected between the ages of 1 and 5 years. The index cases in such events have been assumed to come from within the family unit or from sources outside the immediate family, such as other families or inhabitants of the same compound or village. Here, we define these routes of transmission by phylogenetic tree analysis of sequences from the entire pre-core/core region of the virus, in Gambian chronic carriers. METHODS: Amplification by polymerase chain reaction of serum extracted HBV-DNA was followed by direct sequencing of the target region. Following editing and alignment of these sequences, phylogenetic tree analysis was performed using the neighbour-joining and maximum-likelihood methods. RESULTS: Despite the overall conserved nature of the sequences of the pre-core/core region from 142 chronic carriers, distinct clusters were easily defined at the family and village level, but not on a wider geographical separation. CONCLUSIONS: Phylogenetic tree analysis of sequences obtained from family members provided strong evidence of intrafamilial transmission of HBV in at least two-thirds of the families studied from Gambia.