Characterization of hepatitis delta virus in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Clinical and Applied Virology
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is a satellite of hepatitis B virus (HBV), and infection with this virus aggravates acute and chronic liver disease. While HBV seroprevalence is very high across sub-Saharan Africa, much less is known about HDV in the region. In this study, almost 2,300 blood serum samples from Burkina Faso (n=1,131), Nigeria (n=974), Chad (n=50), and the Central African Republic (n = 118) were screened for HBV and HDV. Among 743 HBsAg-positive serum samples, 74 were positive for HDV antibodies and/or HDV RNA, with considerable differences in prevalence, ranging from <2% (pregnant women from Burkina Faso) to 50% (liver patients from Central African Republic). HDV seems to be much more common in chronic liver disease patients in the Central African Republic (CAR) than in similar cohorts in Nigeria. In a large nested mother-child cohort in Burkina Faso, the prevalence of HDV antibodies was 10 times higher in the children than in their mothers, despite similar HBsAg prevalences, excluding vertical transmission as an important route of infection. The genotyping of 16 full-length and 8 partial HDV strains revealed clade 1 (17/24) in three of the four countries, while clades 5 (5/24) and 6 (2/24) were, at least in this study, confined to Central Nigeria. On the amino acid level, almost all our clade 1 strains exhibited a serine at position 202 in the hepatitis D antigen, supporting the hypothesis of an ancient African HDV-1 subgroup. Further studies are required to understand the public health significance of the highly varied HDV prevalences in different cohorts and countries in sub-Saharan Africa.