Hepatitis B viruses are small enveloped DNA viruses referred to as Hepadnaviridae that cause transient or persistent (chronic) infections of the liver. This family is divided into two genera, orthohepadnavirus and avihepadnavirus, which infect mammals or birds as natural hosts, respectively. They possess a narrow host range determined by the initial steps of viral attachment and entry. Hepatitis B virus is the focus of biomedical research owing to its medical significance. Approximately 2 billion people have serological evidence of hepatitis B, and of these approximately 350 million people have chronic infections (World Health Organisation, Fact Sheet WHO/204, October 2000). Depending on viral and host factors, the outcomes of infection with hepatitis B virus vary between acute hepatitis, mild or severe chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis. Chronic infections are associated with an increased risk for the development of hepatocellular carcinoma.