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PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e21151. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021151. Epub 2011 Oct 6.

A novel genotype of GB virus C: its identification and predominance among injecting drug users in Yunnan, China.

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Faculty of Environmental Science and Engineering and Faculty of Life Science and Technology, Kunming University of Science and Technology, Kunming, Yunnan, China.


GB virus C (GBV-C) is prevalent globally and particularly among individuals at risk of parental exposures. Based on genetic diversity, this virus is now classified into six genotypes and many subtypes with distinct geographical distribution. In this study, 120 Injecting Drug Users (IDUs) were recruited from Yunnan province, China. Among them, 43 (35.8%) were positive for GBV-C RNA, 70 (58.3%) and 103 (85.8%) sero-positive for HIV-1 and HCV respectively. This revealed 18.3% of IDUs having GBV-C/HIV/HCV triple infection, which is significantly higher than 7.5% of GBV-C/HIV-1 and 10% of GBV-C/HCV dual infection rates (P<0.05). Based on 5'UTR sequences, the identified 43 viral isolates can be classified into three phylogenetic groups: one (2.3%) and two (4.7%) belonged to genotype 3 and 4, respectively, and the remaining 40 (93%) formed a new group with 97% of bootstrap support. This new GBV-C group was further confirmed by characterizing the E2 region and full-length genome sequences. Analysis of 187 nt 5'UTR sequence showed three previous reported isolates from Southeast Asia were re-classified into this new group. It implies they have the same origin with strains from Yunnan. Although we provisionally assigned this new group as GBV-C genotype 7, a simpler five groups of GBV-C nomenclature is recommended. Genotype 4, 6 and the newly designated genotype 7 could be reclassified as one group, which may represent a single GBV-C genotype. The classification of the other four groups was corresponding to that of previous reported genotype 1, 2, 3 and 5. Furthermore, the diversity of amino acid sequence in the E2 region was analyzed. The inhibitory effect of GBV-C genotype 7 on HIV-1 cell entry could be deduced. Since GBV-C may have a beneficial effect on AIDS disease progression and interact with HCV during co-infection, this finding may raise interests in future studies on this virus that was previously thought to be a "non-pathogenic virus".

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