• hepatitis C;
  • serum HCV RNA;
  • HCV genotype

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA status and HCV genotype have become important tools in the diagnosis and monitoring of therapy in chronic HCV infection. To establish a database with respect to HCV genotype and serum HCV RNA concentrations in chronic hepatitis C patients in the United States, we analysed 6807 chronic hepatitis C patients who had HCV RNA and HCV genotype tests conducted at a central laboratory. The HCV RNA concentration cut-off for the lower 25th percentile of this population (low titre) was 0.9 × 106 copies ml–1. The median HCV RNA concentration was 3.5 × 106 copies ml–1 and the cut-off for the upper 25th percentile (high titre) was 5 × 106 copies ml–1.  Male patients had a median HCV RNA concentration of 3.9 × 106 copies ml–1, which was significantly higher than the median HCV RNA level for females (2.75 × 106 copies ml–1; P < 0.001). HCV genotype 1 was detected in 73% of patients; genotype 2 in 14%; genotype 3 in 8%; mixed genotype in 4%; and genotypes 4, 5 and 6 with a frequency of < 1%. Patients from the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest had significantly (P < 0.001) more infections with genotype 1 than patients from the Western and Southern regions. African–American patients were more likely to be infected with genotype 1 when compared with Caucasian, Hispanic or Asian Pacific Islanders (P < 0.001). Patients infected with HCV genotype 1 and mixed HCV genotypes had significantly higher serum HCV RNA concentrations when compared with HCV genotypes 2 and 3 (P < 0.001 for all comparisons).