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Keywords:

  • hepatitis C virus;
  • subtype 3a;
  • molecular epidemiology

Abstract

Hepatitis C virus subtype 3a (HCV-3a) originates from Asia and has spread widely among injecting drug users as well as other patient groups in industrialized countries. HCV subtype 3a infection remains highly prevalent and frequently transmitted in the population of intravenous drug users. The objective of this study was to understand better the mechanisms of the worldwide HCV-3a epidemics in drug users. Ninety-three sera from HCV-3a-infected IDUs from France, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, and Australia were studied. Phylogenetic analyses of the non-structural 5B region showed no specific clustering according to the continent of the patient's origin. Non-exclusive clusters of viral sequences from South America, Australia, and California were observed, but topologies were not supported by strong bootstrap values. The results suggest that HCV-3a has been transmitted from a common origin through a unique worldwide epidemic that rapidly spread among drug users. Regional transmission occurred in the recent past, leading to an embryonic genetic diversification of HCV-3a among local injecting drug user population. J. Med. Virol. 78:1296–1303, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.