Hepatitis C virus quasispecies in HIV-infected women: Role of injecting drug use and highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)


  • Potential conflict of interest: Nothing to report.


Despite the high frequency of HCV and HIV coinfection, little is known about HCV quasispecies in HIV-positive patients. The current analysis included 236 HIV+/anti-HCV+ women enrolled in the Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS). Hypervariable region 1 of the second envelope gene was analyzed by single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP). The relationship between the HCV quasispecies and clinical and demographic features were analyzed in multivariate models. Age over 40 years and high HCV RNA load were the only factors significantly associated with quasispecies complexity, assessed as the number of SSCP bands. High HIV and HCV plasma loads were associated with quasispecies stability over time, as reflected by stable SSCP band patterns. However, women who were actively injecting drugs were 3 times more likely to experience quasispecies changes than their noninjecting counterparts. No affect on HCV quasispecies dynamics was noted in relation to CD4 count or highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Conclusion: among HIV/HCV coinfected patients, HCV quasispecies complexity and dynamics correlate more closely with HIV and HCV plasma loads than with CD4+ cell counts. Active drug use is associated with quasispecies changes probably due to repeated superinfections with new HCV strains. This needs to be considered when planning treatment and prevention strategies for HCV in coinfected individuals. (HEPATOLOGY 2007.)