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Keywords:

  • genotype;
  • hepatitis C;
  • liver disease;
  • natural history;
  • serotype

Summary.  Whether differences in the natural history of hepatitis C virus (HCV) can be explained by differences in the infecting HCV type is unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the HCV type might influence the clinical outcome of infection. Study serum samples were assembled from 749 individuals enrolled into the UK HCV National Register from which data on clinical outcomes were extracted. HCV-RNA-positive specimens were genotyped and HCV-RNA-negative specimens serotyped. Logistic regression analysis was used to investigate the independent effect of HCV type on viral clearance by comparing patients who were HCV RNA negative (n = 86) with those who were HCV RNA positive (n = 508). The same method was used to investigate whether HCV type was associated with histological stage of liver disease. The prevalence of HCV type 1 among those who cleared infection was 69% and among those who remained HCV RNA positive was 51%: Type 1 infections were more likely to be HCV RNA negative than non-1 types (OR 0.47, 95% CI 0.29–0.78, P = 0.003). Type 1 infections were also more likely to be associated with histological stage scores above the median when compared with non-1 types (OR 2.03, 95% CI 1.07–3.83, P = 0.03). In conclusion, HCV type 1 infection was more often HCV RNA negative, suggesting that spontaneous clearance may occur more commonly with this type. Among the RNA-positive infections, type 1 infection may be more aggressive than types 2/3.