Hepatitis C virus (HCV) hypervariable region 1 complexity does not correlate with severity of liver disease, HCV type, viral load or duration of infection

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Several studies have suggested that infection with a highly heterogeneous population of hepatitis C virus correlates with a low response rate to interferon. It is still debated, however, whether or not this heterogeneity might be associated with liver disease severity. The aim of this study was to analyse hepatitis C virus genome complexity in patients with various stages of liver disease.


We used polymerase chain reaction-single strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis to estimate the degree of complexity of the hypervariable region (HVR1) in 95 anti-HCV and serum HCV-RNA positive patients. They were divided into two groups according to Knodell's histological activity index (HAI) grading: 22 with HAI <4 and 73 with HAI ≥4, including 19 with cirrhosis.


The number of visible SSCP bands ranged from 1 to 7. There was no significant difference in the number of SSCP bands between patients with HAI <4 and patients with HAI ≥4 (median number of bands was 4 in both groups). The number of SSCP bands was not correlated to the biochemical activity, the genotype, the HCV-RNA titre or the duration of hepatitis C virus infection.


The HCV-HVR1 complexity profile alone does not correlate with the severity of liver disease, whatever the biological and virological profile of the viral infection.

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