The study aimed to characterize the genotype and subgenotypes of HBV circulating in Saudi Arabia, the presence of clinically relevant mutations possibly associated with resistance to antivirals or immune escape phenomena, and the possible impact of mutations in the structural characteristics of HBV polymerase. Plasma samples from 12 Saudi Arabian HBV-infected patients were analyzed using an in-house PCR method and direct sequencing. Saudi patients were infected with mainly subgenotype D1. A number of mutations in the RT gene (correlated to antiviral resistance) and within and outside the major hydrophilic region of the S gene (claimed to influence immunogenicity and be related to immune escape) were observed in almost all patients. Furthermore, the presence of mutations in the S region caused a change in the tertiary structure of the protein compared with the consensus region. Clinical manifestations of HBV infection may change dramatically as a result of viral and host factors: the study of mutations and protein-associated cofactors might define possible aspects relevant for the natural and therapeutic history of HBV infection.
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