Sexual transmission of GB virus C/hepatitis G virus.
Scallan MF., Clutterbuck D., Jarvis LM., Scott GR., Simmonds P.
Although it is established that infection with GB virus C (GBV-C) or hepatitis G virus (HGV) can be transmitted parenterally, the prevalence of GBV-C/HGV viremia in the general population (2-5%) is relatively high compared with other parenterally borne viruses such as hepatitis C virus. To investigate the possibility of sexual transmission of GBV-C/HGV, we determined the frequency of viremia by the polymerase chain reaction and serological reactivity to the E2 protein by ELISA in samples collected from individuals at risk for sexually transmitted diseases attending a city genitourinary medicine clinic. GBV-C/HGV viremia was detected in 27 of 87 male homosexuals (31%) and 9 of 50 prostitutes (18%), frequencies significantly greater than those in matched controls (2/63) and local blood donors (2.3%). Among nonviremic individuals, a high frequency of serological reactivity to the E2 protein of GBV-C/HGV was also observed in the risk groups (male homosexuals: 14/60; prostitutes: 11/41), although these figures are likely to be underestimates of the frequency of past infection as detectable anti-E2 reactivity may attenuate rapidly over time following resolution of infection. Infection with GBV-C/HGV was more frequent among those coinfected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1. Among male homosexuals from whom retrospective samples were available, evidence for de novo infection was found in 9 of 22 individuals over a mean sampling time of 2.9 years, predicting an annualized incidence of GBV-C/HGV infection of approximately 11% in this group. The high prevalence and incidence of GBV-C/HGV infection in these individuals and prostitutes provides strong evidence for its spread by sexual contact. Further studies are required to investigate the mechanism of its transmission and the clinical significance of acute and persistent infection in these risk groups.