Detection of a new subgenotype of hepatitis B virus genotype A in Cameroon but not in neighbouring Nigeria.
- Clinical and Applied Virology
To further investigate the genetic diversity of hepatitis B virus (HBV) genotype A in Africa, we analysed 263 HBV strains from Nigeria (n=163) and Cameroon (n=100). Phylogenetic analysis of S fragment sequences attributed 175 strains (66.5%) to genotype E and 88 (33.5%) to genotype A. In Cameroon, genotype A strains were the most prevalent (79/100, 79.0%), whereas, in Nigeria, genotype E was highly dominant (154/163, 94.5%). The genotype A strains grouped with reference strains of subgenotype A3 (n=8), the provisional subgenotype A5 (n=43), a recently reported new variant from Rwanda (n=35), or as outliers (n=2). Ten complete genome sequences obtained from strains that clustered with the new variant from Rwanda formed a separate group supported by a bootstrap value of 96. The between-group distance to other potential or recognized subgenotypes of genotype A was at least 3.81%. Thus, the new group of strains could be considered as a new subgenotype of HBV genotype A, tentatively named 'A7'. Interestingly, the 'A7' strains from Rwanda and Cameroon showed an interspersed clustering, but essentially no other (sub)genotypes were shared between the two countries, suggesting that 'A7' may have evolved in a yet unknown place and may have only relatively recently spread to Rwanda and Western Cameroon. Strains attributed to provisional subgenotype A5 were found for the first time in Cameroon (n=36) and Central Nigeria (n=2), indicating that A5 is more widespread than previously thought.