Men-Only Hepatitis B Mutation Explains Higher Cancer Rates
A mutation in the hepatitis B virus (HBV) that appears only in men could explain why HBV-infected men have much higher liver cancer rates.
Asian Scientist (Oct. 30, 2013) - A team of researchers has identified a novel mutation in the hepatitis B virus (HBV) in Korea that appears only in men and could help explain why HBV-infected men are roughly five times more likely than HBV-infected women to develop liver cancer.
Although some women do progress to cirrhosis and liver cancer, the mutation is absent in HBV in women.
“This is the first mutation found that can explain the gender disparity in incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma,” says Bum-Joon Kim of Seoul National University, Korea, the senior author of the study.
In the study, published the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, the researchers collected and analyzed serum samples from 292 patients with chronic HBV infection who visited one of three hospitals in Korea from 2003-2005.
Because previous studies had suggested that a gene mutation known as W4P/R was associated with higher incidence of liver cancer and cirrhosis, the researchers developed an assay to specifically identify HBV with the W4P/R mutation.
When compared to patient outcomes, the W4P/R mutation was significantly associated with severe liver disease and was found exclusively in male patients.
The investigators believe the assay they developed to discover the mutation may hold promise as a diagnostic tool for predicting male progression to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
However, they caution that larger studies are necessary to confirm their findings, as only 67 of the 292 samples came from women.
Source: American Society for Microbiology; Photo: Loren Javier/Flickr/CC.
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