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As well as being distributed widely in human populations, hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections occur frequently in chimpanzee, gibbon and other ape populations in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. To investigate the frequency and genetic relationships of HBV infecting gibbons in Cambodia, pileated gibbons (Hylobates pileatus) that were originally wild-caught were screened for surface antigen. Twelve of 26 (46 %) were positive, of which 11 were positive for HBV DNA. Phylogenetic analysis of complete genome sequences revealed two distinct genetic groups in the gibbon/orangutan clade. Three were similar to previously described variants infecting H. pileatus in Thailand and eight formed a distinct clade, potentially representing distinct strains of HBV circulating in geographically separated populations in South-East Asia. Because of the ability of HBV to cross species barriers, large reservoirs of infection in gibbons may hamper ongoing attempts at permanent eradication of HBV infection from human populations in South-East Asia through immunization.

Original publication




Journal article


J Gen Virol

Publication Date





333 - 337


Animals, Cambodia, DNA, Viral, Disease Reservoirs, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis B Antibodies, Hepatitis B Surface Antigens, Hepatitis B virus, Hylobates, Molecular Sequence Data, Phylogeny, Species Specificity