Molecular epidemiology of hepatitis C virus in the Valencia region (Spain)

Poster number: 4

Fernando González-Candelas, Andrés Moya, Alma Bracho.

  1. Evolutionary Genetics Unit, “Cavanilles” Institute for Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, University of Valencia, P.O. Box 22085, 46071 Valencia, Spain.

Since our involvement in the forensic analysis of a huge outbreak of hepatitis C virus in our region, in which we obtained and analyzed more than 4200 sequences from the E1-E2 and Ns5b regions from almost 400 patients, we have started a research line for the analysis of the molecular epidemiology of HCV in the Valencia area in Spain. Our research covers a range of different projects, from the detailed analysis of minor or suspected outbreaks and transmission chains to the analysis of the effects of coinfection with HIV and antiviral treatments on the genetic variability and its dynamics on HCV. Here we present a thorough study of genetic variation in two genome regions (E1E2 and Ns5a) of HCV genotype 1 in patients receiving antiviral treatment with -interferon and ribavirin. Seventy-three treatment nave patients were enrolled in the study and genetic variability in the two aforementioned regions was evaluated by sequencing around 100 and 30 clones from each. Samples were taken after treatment and for those non-responders we obtained similarly estimates of genetic variation. The resulting data, which represent about 16000 sequences, provide an unparalleled opportunity to answer specific and general questions of interest both from basic evolutionary biology to clinical and epidemiological applications. Among these, we will present results on the demographic patterns of these two HCV genotypes in our population, the effect of viral genetic variability on response to treatment, the pattern of selection exerted by the antiviral treatment on the virus, and the description and characterization of a new hypervariable region in the HCV genome. Altogether, these data and their analysis represent a fine example of the many opportunities for the advancement of two disciplines, virology and bioinformatics, and their impact on society, both in terms of public and individual health and advancement of scientific knowledge.