Hepatitis B virus (HBV) has a high mutation rate due to the extremely high replication rate and the proofreading deficiency during reverse transcription. The generated variants with genetic heterogeneity are described as viral quasispecies (QS). Clone-based sequencing (CBS) is thought to be the 'gold standard' for assessing QS complexity and diversity of HBV, but an important issue about CBS is cost-effectiveness and laborious. In this study, we investigated the utility of the third-generation sequencing (TGS) DNA sequencing to characterize genetic heterogeneity of HBV QS and assessed the possible contribution of TGS technology in HBV QS studies. Parallel experiments including 3 control samples, which consisted of HBV full gene genotype B and genotype C plasmids, and 10 patients samples were performed by using CBS and TGS to analyze HBV whole-genome QS. Characterization of QS heterogeneity was conducted by using comprehensive statistical analysis. The results showed that TGS had a high consistency with CBS when measuring the complexity and diversity of QS. In addition, to detect rare variants, there were strong advantages conferred by TGS. In summary, TGS was considered to be practicable in HBV QS studies and it might have a relevant role in the clinical management of HBV infection in the future.
Journal: Emerging microbes and infections