Aim: To study the subtype prevalence and the phylogenetic relatedness of hepatitis C virus (HCV) sequences obtained from the Argentine general population, a large cohort of individuals was analyzed. Methods: Healthy Argentinian volunteers (n = 6251) from 12 provinces representing all geographical regions of the country were studied. All parents or legal guardians of individuals younger than 18 years provided informed written consent for participation. The corresponding written permission from all municipal authorities was obtained from each city or town where subjects were to be included. HCV RNA reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction products were sequenced and phylogenetically analyzed. The 5' untranslated region (5'UTR) was used for RNA detection and initial genotype classification. The NS5B polymerase region, encompassing nt 8262-8610, was used for subtyping. Results: An unexpectedly low prevalence of HCV infection in the general population (0.32%) was observed. Our data contrasted with previous studies that reported rates ranging from 1.5% to 2.5%, mainly performed in selected populations of blood donors or vulnerable groups. The latter values are in keeping with the prevalence reported by the 2007 Argentinian HCV Consensus (approximately 2%). HCV subtypes were distributed as follows: 1a (25%), 1b (25%), 2c (25%), 3a (5%), and 2j (5%). Two isolates ascribed either to genotype 1 (5%) or to genotype 3 (5%) by 5'UTR phylogenetic analysis could not be subtyped. Subtype 1a sequences comprised a highly homogeneous population and clustered with United States sequences. Genotype 1b sequences represented a heterogeneous population, suggesting that this genotype might have been introduced from different sources. Most subtype 2c sequences clustered close to the 2c reported from Italy and Southern France. Conclusion: HCV has a low prevalence of 0.32% in the studied general population of Argentina. The pattern of HCV introduction and transmission in Argentina appears to be a consequence of multiple events and different for each subtype. © 2013 Baishideng. All rights reserved.
- Hepatitis C virus
- Hepatitis C virus 5' untranslated region
- Hepatitis C virus NS5B subtyping
- Molecular epidemiology