Disappearance of hepatitis B surface antigens (HBsAg) in chronic hepatitis B usually indicates clearance of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. However, false HBsAg negativity with mutations in pre-S2 and 'a' determinant has been reported. It is also known that YMDD mutations decrease the production of HBV and escape detection of serum HBsAg. Here, we report overlapping gene mutations in a patient with HBsAg loss during the lamivudine therapy. After 36 months of lamivudine therapy in a 44-yr-old Korean chronic hepatitis B patient, serum HBsAg turned negative while HBV DNA remained positive by a DNA probe method. Nucleotide sequence of serum HBV DNA was compared with the HBV genotype C subtype adr registered in NCBI AF 286594. Deletion of nucleotides 23 to 55 (amino acids 12 to 22) was identified in the pre-S2 region. Sequencing of the 'a' determinant revealed amino acid substitutions as I126S, T131N, M133T, and S136Y. Methionine of rtM204 in the P gene was substituted for isoleucine indicating YIDD mutation (rtM204I). We identified a HBV mutant composed of pre-S2 deletions and 'a' determinant substitutions with YMDD mutation. Our result suggests that false HBsAg negativity can be induced by combination of overlapping gene mutations during the lamivudine therapy.
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