• hepatitis C virus;
  • viral genomes;
  • liver disease;
  • cirrhosis


The presence of the “Japanese type” NS4 region was investigated in two series of patients (53 from Italy and 58 from Japan) with hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related chronic liver disease. The two populations were homogeneous as regard to age, male/female ratio, histological diagnosis, and serum aminotransferase activities. Genomic amplification was carried out by “nested” poly-merase chain reaction (PCR) with a pair of primers synthesized according to the sequence of JK-1 isolated in Japan. The presence of viral replication was confirmed further by PCR amplification of the 5′NC region. The NS4 region of the Japanese strain was detected in 24 sera (45%) from Italy and in 44 (71%) from Japan. NS4-posi-tive patients were significantly older and showed an ALT serum level significantly lower (P < 0.01) than NS4 negative cases in each group. Cirrhosis was significantly (P < 0.0007) more common in NS4-positive than in NS4-negative patients. The HCV genotype was subsequently obtained according to Okamoto. All the NS4-positive patients were infected by Type II, whereas in NS4-negative patients all four genotypes were present though Type II still constituted the majority. Cirrhosis was associated exclusively with Type II both in NS4-positive and -negative subjects. These data indicate that, although the pos-itivity for NS4 “Japanese” region seems to be associated with a more aggressive liver disease, the most prevalent Type II predicts more specifically those who are likely to develop cirrhosis. Since the same findings were obtained in two population from different areas of the world, the genotype of HCV appears to be one of the major determinants of the progression of chronic active hepatitis to cirrhosis. © 1994 Wiiey-Liss, Inc.