Background: Antiviral therapy by nucleoside/nucleotide analogues (NAs) effectively reduces HBV replication in chronic hepatitis B (CHB) patients. Because long-term NA treatments will eventually select for drugresistant mutants, early detection of mutants and frequent monitoring of viral loads is crucial for successful NA therapy. Because no efficient test for one-tube quantification and qualification of various HBV-resistant mutants exists, we propose to use high-resolution melting (HRM) analysis in combination with real-time PCR to achieve this unmet need. Methods: We developed a single amplicon for detecting HBV mutants resistant to lamivudine (LMV), adefovir (ADV) and entecavir (ETV), which are commonly used for CHB treatment. Our design consists of two steps: real-time PCR for viral quantification, and hybridization probe HRM analysis for detection of specific drug-resistant mutants. Results: Assay quantification was accurate (R=0.98) for viral loads from 103 to 109 copies/ml. HRM analysis produced distinct melting temperatures that clearly distinguished the mutants, rtM204V/I (LMV), rtA181V and rtN236T (ADV), and rtT184G and rtM250V (ETV), from their respective wild types. The assay detected mutants at only 10-25% of the HBV population. The clinical applicability of this assay was tested in a pilot study with serial samples from patients receiving LMV treatment. Conclusions: Flexibility, speed and cost-efficiency are additional benefits unique to our assay. The clinical sample results further support the feasibility of applying our design to frequent and long-term monitoring of CHB patients receiving NA treatments in the clinical setting.
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