Experimental Transmission of Hepatitis C Virus-Associated Fulminant Hepatitis to a Chimpanzee

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Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) was transmitted from a patient with fulminant hepatitis C to a chimpanzee. The patient had developed two episodes of fulminant hepatitis C, each occurring after a separate liver transplantation. Serial serum and liver samples from the patient and the chimpanzee were analyzed for HCV replication, genotype, quasispecies heterogeneity, and antibodies. In the patient, the levels of HCV replication in serum and liver correlated with the degree of hepatocellular necrosis and the clinical expression of fulminant hepatitis. The same HCV strain, genotype 1a, was recovered from both episodes of fulminant hepatitis. An unusually severe acute hepatitis was also observed in the chimpanzee. The viruses recovered from the patient and the chimpanzee were almost identical and displayed relatively little quasispecies heterogeneity. Thus, the same HCV strain induced two episodes of fulminant hepatitis in a single patient and severe hepatitis in a chimpanzee, suggesting that the pathogenicity or virulence of a specific HCV strain may be important in the pathogenesis of fulminant hepatitis C.

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