Cytogenetic analysis of metaphase chromosome spreads from peripheral blood cells of hepatitis B virus (HBV) chronic carriers and HBV-negative individuals of the same ethnic origin revealed a significantly higher incidence of chromosome breaks and other mitotic aberrations in the HBV chronic carriers. The highest incidence of chromosome breaks was found in chronic carriers who evidenced circulating HBV. Such an association between HBV and these genetic lesions assumes importance in light of the known correlation between HBV chronic carrier status and the high risk of hepatocellular carcinogenesis, where a mutagenic effect of HBV cannot be excluded.

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This work was supported by USPHS Grants CA10815, CA37225, CA21124 (B. B. K. and D. S.), and CA40737 and CA43217 (T. L. and H. L. H.).

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