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Abstract

Superinfection of different viral strains within a single host provides an opportunity for studying host-virus and virus-virus interactions, including viral interference and genetic recombination, which cannot be studied in infections with single viral strains. Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a positive single-strand RNA virus that establishes persistent infection in as many as 85% of infected individuals. However, there are few reports regarding coinfection or superinfection of HCV. Because of the lack of tissue culture systems and small animal models supporting efficient HCV replication, we explored these issues in the setting of liver transplantation where both recipient and donor were infected with different HCV strains and therefore represent a distinct model for HCV superinfection. Serial serum samples collected at multiple time points were obtained from 6 HCV-positive liver donor/recipient pairs from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases liver transplantation database. At each time point, HCV genotype was determined by both restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis and phylogenetic analysis. Furthermore, we selectively sequenced 3 full-length HCV isolates at the earliest time points after liver transplantation, including both 5′ and 3′ ends. Detailed genetic analyses showed that only one strain of HCV could be identified at each time point in all 6 cases. Recipient HCV strains took over in 3 cases, whereas donor HCV strains dominated after liver transplantation in the remaining 3 cases. In conclusion, in all 6 cases studied, there was no genetic recombination detected among HCV quasispecies or between donor and recipient HCV strains.