Survey of type 6 group variants of hepatitis C virus in Southeast Asia by using a core-based genotyping assay.
Mellor J., Walsh EA., Prescott LE., Jarvis LM., Davidson F., Yap PL., Simmonds P.
Previous surveys of the prevalences of genotypes of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in different populations have often used genotyping assays based upon analysis of amplified sequences from the 5' noncoding region (5'NCR), such as restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) or hybridization with type-specific probes (e.g., InnoLipa). Although highly conserved, this region contains several type-specific nucleotide polymorphisms that allow major genotypes 1 to 6 to be reliably identified. Recently, however, novel HCV variants found in Vietnam and Thailand that are distantly related to the type 6a genotype (type 6 group) by phylogenetic analysis of coding regions of the genome often have sequences in the 5'NCR that are similar or identical to those of type 1 and could therefore not be identified by an assay of sequences in this region. We developed a new genotyping assay based upon RFLP of sequences amplified from the more variable core region to investigate their distribution elsewhere in southeast (SE) Asia. Among 108 samples from blood donors in seven areas that were identified as type 1 by RFLP in the 5'NCR, type 6 group variants were found in Thailand (7 from 28 samples originally identified as type 1) and Burma (Myanmar) (1 of 3) but were not found in Hong Kong (n = 43), Macau (n = 8), Taiwan (n = 6), Singapore (n = 2), or Malaysia (n = 18). Although this small survey suggests a relatively limited distribution for type 6 group variants in SE Asia, larger studies will be required to explore their distribution in other geographical regions and the extent to which their presence would limit the practical usefulness of 5'NCR-based genotyping assays for clinical or epidemiological purposes.