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Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections are widely distributed in humans, infecting approximately one third of the world's population. HBV variants have also been detected and genetically characterised from Old World apes; Gorilla gorilla (gorilla), Pan troglodytes (chimpanzee), Pongo pygmaeus (orang-utan), Nomascus nastusus and Hylobates pileatus (gibbons) and from the New World monkey, Lagothrix lagotricha (woolly monkey). To investigate species-specificity and potential for cross species transmission of HBV between sympatric species of apes (such as gorillas and chimpanzees in Central Africa) or between humans and chimpanzees or gorillas, variants of HBV infecting captive wild-born non-human primates were genetically characterised. 9 of 62 chimpanzees (11.3%) and two from 11 gorillas (18%) were HBV-infected (15% combined frequency), while other Old world monkey species were negative. Complete genome sequences were obtained from six of the infected chimpanzee and both gorillas; those from P. t .ellioti grouped with previously characterised variants from this subspecies. However, variants recovered from P. t. troglodytes HBV variants also grouped within this clade, indicative of transmission between sub-species, forming a paraphyletic clade. The two gorilla viruses were phylogenetically distinct from chimpanzee and human variants although one showed evidence for a recombination event with a P.t.e.-derived HBV variant in the partial X and core gene region. Both of these observations provide evidence for circulation of HBV between different species and sub-species of non-human primates, a conclusion that differs from the hypothesis if of strict host specificity of HBV genotypes.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0033430

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS One

Publication Date

2012

Volume

7

Keywords

Animals, Base Sequence, Genetic Variation, Genome, Viral, Gorilla gorilla, Hepatitis B virus, Humans, Pan troglodytes, Phylogeny, Recombination, Genetic, Species Specificity