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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jul 12;108(28):11608-13. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1101794108. Epub 2011 May 24.

Characterization of a canine homolog of hepatitis C virus.

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Center for Infection and Immunity, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


An estimated 3% of the world's population is chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Although HCV was discovered more than 20 y ago, its origin remains obscure largely because no closely related animal virus homolog has been identified; furthermore, efforts to understand HCV pathogenesis have been hampered by the absence of animal models other than chimpanzees for human disease. Here we report the identification in domestic dogs of a nonprimate hepacivirus. Comparative phylogenetic analysis of the canine hepacivirus (CHV) confirmed it to be the most genetically similar animal virus homolog of HCV. Bayesian Markov chains Monte Carlo and associated time to most recent common ancestor analyses suggest a mean recent divergence time of CHV and HCV clades within the past 500-1,000 y, well after the domestication of canines. The discovery of CHV may provide new insights into the origin and evolution of HCV and a tractable model system with which to probe the pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of diseases caused by hepacivirus infection.

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