The spread of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection involves a complex interplay of social risks, and molecular factors of both virus and host. Injection drug abuse is the most powerful risk factor for HCV infection, followed by sexual transmission and additional non-injection drug abuse factors such as co-infection with other viruses and barriers to treatment. It is clearly important to understand the wider context in which the factors related to HCV infection occur. This understanding is required for a comprehensive approach leading to the successful prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of HCV. An additional consideration is that current treatments and advanced molecular methods are generally unavailable to socially disadvantaged patients. Thus, the recognition of behavioral/social, viral, and host factors as components of an integrated approach to HCV is important to help this vulnerable group. Equally important, this approach is key to the development of personalized patient treatment – a significant goal in global healthcare.
In this review, we discuss recent findings concerning the impact of drug abuse, epidemiology, social behavior, virology, immunopathology, and genetics on HCV infection and the course of disease.