Detection and clinical features of hepatitis C virus type 6 infections in blood donors from Hong Kong.
Prescott LE., Simmonds P., Lai CL., Chan NK., Pike I., Yap PL., Lin CK.
The genotype distribution of hepatitis C virus (HCV) was investigated in 212 viraemic blood donors from Hong Kong. A subset of the samples was investigated using three different genotyping assays to establish the accuracy of each in this population. These assays were restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) of amplified 5' noncoding region (5'NCR) sequences, RFLP of the core region, and a serotyping assay using peptides from two antigenic regions of NS4. Genotypes detected in Hong Kong blood donors were 1a (6.2%), 1b (58.8%), 2a (1.4%), 2b (1.4%), 3a (1.9%), and 6a (27.0%). All genotyping assays produced concordant results. No evidence was obtained for the presence of type 6 group variants recently identified in Southeast Asia, other than type 6a. A serotyping assay based upon the detection of type-specific antibody to epitopes in NS4 produced similar results to the genotyping assays (98% concordance), but a reduced sensitivity (75%) compared with genotyping methods. Sequence variation in NS4 was not the cause of the reduced rate of detection of type 6 antibody in this population. Eighty-four percent donors infected with type 6a were male, compared to 75% donors infected with type 1b. The median alanine transaminase (ALT) level in type 6 infected donors was lower than in type 1b, (43.8 and 51.1 U/l, respectively) although these values were not statistically significant (P = 0.094). There was no significant difference between the ages of donors infected with types 1b and 6a. Risk factors for HCV infection in the blood donors included blood transfusion, intravenous drug abuse, and tattooing. A significantly greater number of donors infected with HCV-6a reported a history of drug abuse (66%) than donors infected with HCV-1b (7%).