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An estimated 3% of the world's population is chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Although HCV was discovered more than 20 y ago, its origin remains obscure largely because no closely related animal virus homolog has been identified; furthermore, efforts to understand HCV pathogenesis have been hampered by the absence of animal models other than chimpanzees for human disease. Here we report the identification in domestic dogs of a nonprimate hepacivirus. Comparative phylogenetic analysis of the canine hepacivirus (CHV) confirmed it to be the most genetically similar animal virus homolog of HCV. Bayesian Markov chains Monte Carlo and associated time to most recent common ancestor analyses suggest a mean recent divergence time of CHV and HCV clades within the past 500-1,000 y, well after the domestication of canines. The discovery of CHV may provide new insights into the origin and evolution of HCV and a tractable model system with which to probe the pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of diseases caused by hepacivirus infection.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





11608 - 11613


Adenoviruses, Canine, Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Base Sequence, Conserved Sequence, Dogs, Evolution, Molecular, Genome, Viral, Hepacivirus, Hepatitis, Infectious Canine, Humans, Molecular Sequence Data, Nucleic Acid Conformation, Phylogeny, RNA, Viral, Sequence Homology, Amino Acid, Species Specificity, Time Factors, Viral Envelope Proteins, Zoonoses