Virology of hepatitis C virus.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been identified as the main causative agent of posttransfusion non-A, non-B hepatitis. Through recently developed diagnostic assays, routine serologic screening of blood donors has prevented most cases of posttransfusion hepatitis. The purpose of this paper is to comprehensively review current information regarding the virology of HCV. Recent findings on the genome organization, its relationship to other viruses, the replication of HCV ribonucleic acid, HCV translation, and HCV polyprotein expression and processing are discussed. Also reviewed are virus assembly and release, the variability of HCV and its classification into genotypes, the geographic distribution of HCV genotypes, and the biologic differences between HCV genotypes. The assays used in HCV genotyping are discussed in terms of reliability and consistency of results, and the molecular epidemiology of HCV infection is reviewed. These approaches to HCV epidemiology will prove valuable in documenting the spread of HCV in different risk groups, evaluating alternative (nonparenteral) routes of transmission, and in understanding more about the origins and evolution of HCV.