Background: The prevalence of chronic hepatitis B (CHB) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in Far North Queensland (FNQ) is greater than twice that of the general Australian population. CHB is common in Torres Strait Islanders diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) – and in Aboriginals with HCC living in the Northern Territory – however, Aboriginals diagnosed with HCC in FNQ very rarely have CHB. The explanation for this apparent disparity is uncertain.
Aims: To determine the HBV genotypes in the FNQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and their correlation with clinical phenotype.
Methods: We determined the HBV genotype of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians living with CHB in FNQ and correlated this with demographic and clinical findings.
Results: 134/197 (68%) enrolled individuals had a sufficient viral load for genotyping. All 40 people with HBV/D genotype had Aboriginal heritage, whereas 85/93 (91%) with HBV/C had Torres Strait Islander heritage (P < 0.0001). Individuals with HBV/D were younger than those with HBV/C (median (interquartile range) age: 43 (39–48) vs 53 (42–66) years, P = 0.0002). However, they were less likely to be HBeAg positive (1/40 (3%) vs 23/93 (25%), P = 0.001). All three HCCs developed in Torres Strait Islanders; two-thirds were infected with HBV/C14; genotyping was not possible in the other individual. All 10 diagnoses of cirrhosis occurred in Torres Strait Islanders, 6/10 were infected with HBV/C14, genotyping was not possible in the other four individuals. Conclusions: HBV genotypes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in FNQ differ markedly, which could explain the significant differences in the clinical phenotype in the two populations and might be used to inform cost-effective CHB care in the region.