Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a significant public health concern with 350 million chronic carriers worldwide. Eight HBV genotypes (A–H) have been described so far. Genotype E (HBV/E) is widely distributed in West Africa and has rarely been found in other continents, except for a few cases in individuals with an African background. In this study, we characterized HBV genotypes in Quibdó, Colombia, by partial S/P gene sequencing, and found, for the first time, HBV/E circulating in nine Afro-Colombian patients who had no recent contact with Africa. The presence of HBV/E in this community as a monophyletic group suggests that it was a result of a recent introduction by some Afro-descendent contact or, alternatively, that the virus came with slaves brought to Colombia. By using sequences with sampling dates, we estimated the substitution rate to be about 3.2×10 substitutions per site per year, which resulted in a time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of 29 years. In parallel, we also estimated the TMRCA for HBV/E by using two previously estimated substitution rates (7.7×10 and 1.5×10 substitutions per site per year). The TMRCA was around 35 years under the higher rate and 1500 years under the slower rate. In sum, this work reports for the first time the presence of an exclusively African HBV genotype circulating in South America. We also discuss the time of the entry of this virus into America based on different substitution rates estimated for HBV.


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