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Hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype analysis in apparently healthy anti- HCV-positive Parisian blood donors


1 Lieven Stuyver, PhD, Project Leader, Viral LiPAs, Department of Nucleic Acid Chemistry, Innogenetics NV, Industriepark 7, Box 4, B-9052 Ghent, Belgium.


BACKGROUND: As only a few studies have examined the prevalence of various hepatitis C virus (HCV) subtypes in blood donors, information about the variability and route of infection in apparently healthy persons is limited. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Blood donations collected at a large Parisian hospital (52,441) were investigated for antibodies to HCV. Serum samples were screened with an enzyme immunoassay. All HCV- positive donations were retested with a second enzyme immunoassay and confirmed by immunoblot. The HCV genotype was determined for all polymerase chain reaction-positive subjects. Untypable genotypes were sequenced in the NS5B region. RESULTS: In total, 83 (0.26%) blood donors were anti-HCV positive. Men (0.34%) were significantly more likely to be infected (p < 0.001) than women (0.19%). Prevalence rates in men between 20 and 39 years of age were higher than those in similar women (p = 0.01), but greater in women aged from 50 to 65 years (p = 0.05). Fifty-five sera were viremic, of which 49 could be genotyped by a line probe assay. One new HCV type 1 subtype and three new HCV type 2 subtypes were discovered. In total, 28, 10, 11, 5, and 1 serum samples were grouped into HCV types 1 through 5, respectively, involving a total of 13 subtypes. The mean age of HCV type 2-infected donors was 42 +/− 11 years, but that for type 3-infected subjects was only 30 +/− 4 years (p = 0.0048). Forty-nine subjects showed elevated alanine aminotransferase levels; 39 (80%) of these subjects were viremic (p < 0.05). CONCLUSION: Among the sampled population, an HCV prevalence rate of 0.26 percent was found, with the five most common European genotypes causing the infections. Four new subtypes were discovered. Correlation between genotype and risk factors was not apparent, but links with age, sex, and ethnic origin emerged.

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