Association of Antibody to GB Virus C (Hepatitis G Virus) with Viral Clearance and Protection from Reinfection

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GB virus C (GBV-C) RNA and envelope antibody were assessed in a median of 4 samples collected over 6.5 years among injection drug users (IDUs). A marker of GBV-C infection was detected in 110 (94.8%) of 116 IDUs. GBV-C RNA was detected at all visits in 32, was never detected in 70, was acquired in 7, and was cleared in 8. The odds of detecting anti-GBV-C were 103-fold higher in participants without detectable RNA (64 of 70) than in IDUs with persistent RNA (3 of 32; P < 10-7). Anti-GBV-C was detected in all 8 instances of RNA clearance. GBV-C RNA never reappeared once it was cleared, and there were no new GBV-C infections among 61 anti-GBV-C-positive IDUs observed for 382 person-years, though all had ongoing drug use. Studies using RNA testing alone may significantly underestimate the occurrence of GBV-C infection. Anti-GBV-C is highly associated with viral clearance and protection from reinfection.

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