Hepatitis B virus: The genotype E puzzle

Iris E. Andernach, Judith M. Hübschen, Claude P. Muller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is highly endemic throughout sub-Saharan Africa. One of the two genotypes A and E dominates in most countries. With several subgenotypes and variants, genotype A is more diverse in Africa (4.00%) than in the rest of the world (2.96%), suggesting an African origin and a long history on the continent. Despite the African slave trade, genotype E has only sporadically been found within the Americas, indicating that this genotype was introduced only during the past 200 years into the general African population. A short history for this genotype in Africa is also supported by its conspicuously low genetic diversity (1.75%), which contrasts, however, with its excessively high HBsAg prevalence and its extensive spread throughout the vast West-African genotype E crescent. We discuss the spread and routes of transmission of genotype E and suggest that the distribution and current high prevalence levels of HBV (genotype E) in Africa are the result of the extensive use of unsafe needles, potentially solving the current African genotype E puzzle and shedding new light on the high HBV prevalence in Africa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-240
Number of pages10
JournalReviews in Medical Virology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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