Surface antigen mutations of hepatitis B virus (HBV) may lead to immune escape and cause failure of immunization. In this report, the development of a chronic HBV infection in a vaccinated renal transplant recipient with pre-existing anti-HBs antibody is documented. The sequencing data showed that the HBV strain carried five amino acid substitutions in the major hydrophilic region of the S protein, one (sS143L) located at the "a" determinant. A commercial HBsAg assay failed to detect the mutant antigen. (C) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.