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Infect Genet Evol. 2007 Jun;7(3):361-7. Epub 2006 Nov 29.

The hepatitis C virus epidemic in Cameroon: genetic evidence for rapid transmission between 1920 and 1960.

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Laboratoire de Virologie, Centre Pasteur du Cameroun, BP 1274 Yaounde, Cameroon.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in Cameroon is characterized by widespread seropositivity and great virus genetic diversity (3 genotypes and over 10 subtypes). A total of 244 HCV NS5B sequences of 382-405 bp long (95 type 1, 58 type 2, and 91 type 4) were phylogenetically analyzed to estimate the history of the HCV epidemic in Cameroon. The newly developed Bayesian coalescent approach was used to infer the history of each HCV type. The estimated dates of the most recent common ancestors (MRCA) for genotypes 1 (1500; 95% confidence interval (95% CI): 1300-1650) and 4 (1500; 95% CI: 1350-1700) were in the same range, while the date for genotype 2 MRCA (1600; 95% CI: 1400-1750) was slightly more recent. The mean genetic distance between HCV genotype 1 sequences was greater than that of HCV type 4 sequences, itself greater than that of HCV type 2 sequences. The initial infected populations of all three genotypes did not grow until recently, when they grew exponentially. The growth rate has now begun to slow, with a less steep exponential growth curve. The period of exponential growth of all the three genotypes was between 1920 and 1960. These results (i) confirm that HCV genotypes 1 and 4 have produced long-term endemics, (ii) suggest that genotype 2 was introduced into Cameroon more recently, and (iii) indicate that the exponential spread of the three genotypes between 1920 and 1960 coincided with the mass campaign against trypanosomiasis and mass vaccinations in Cameroon.

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