Research highlight

Risk for hepatitis B in Asians

Nature Genetics

April 7, 2009

Scientists have identified genetic variations associated with the risk of persistent infection of hepatitis B virus in Asian populations, according to a study online this week in Nature Genetics. Chronic hepatitis B is one of the most common infectious liver diseases caused by hepatitis B virus (HBV).

Yusuke Nakamura and colleagues carried out an association study in Asian populations, and identified a significant association between chronic hepatitis B infection and 11 genetic variations in a region of the genome that includes the HLA-DPA1 and HLA-DPB1 genes. These genes are structurally similar to genes that encode proteins critical for launching an effective immune response against HBV.

There are an estimated 400 million people chronically infected with HBV worldwide, and nearly 60% of liver cancers are related to chronic hepatitis B and liver cirrhosis. Since the clinical outcomes after the exposure to HBV are highly variable, identification of genetic and environmental factors that are related to progression of HBV-induced liver diseases is critically important.

doi: 10.1038/ng.348

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