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Lancet. 1996 Dec 14;348(9042):1626-9.

Association between fulminant hepatic failure and a strain of GBV virus C.

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Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Medical University Hannover, Germany.



The GB virus C (GBV-C) and the hepatitis G virus (HGV) have been detected in patients with acute indeterminant hepatitis and post-transfusion hepatitis. However, the role of the new hepatitis viruses in the aetiology of fulminant hepatitis is little understood. We investigated the presence of GBV-C/HGV in patients with fulminant hepatic failure.


Serum samples from 22 German patients with fulminant hepatic failure and 106 symptom-free blood donors (controls) were studied for presence of GBV-C RNA by seminested reverse transcriptase PCR. Primer sequences were derived from the published gene sequences of the conserved NS3 region of the GBV-C prototype and the published isolates. Nucleotide and amino acid sequences of GBV-C-positive isolates, the control RNA, and the published HGV and GBV-C prototype sequences were compared by multiple sequence alignment. We also compared the GBV-C sequences of virus-positive patients who had fulminant hepatic failure with those of 19 patients with chronic hepatitis from our centre. In addition, we searched databases and published papers for further GBV-C helicase sequences in patients with non-fulminant hepatitis.


GBV-C RNA was detected in 11 (50%) of the 22 patients with fulminant hepatic failure and in five (4.7%) of 106 control-group blood donors. Among the patients with fulminant hepatic failure, six of seven with fulminant hepatitis B and five of ten with fulminant non-A-E hepatitis were positive for GBV-C RNA. Analysis of nucleic acid sequences showed six mutations at defined positions in all 11 patients with fulminant hepatic failure who were positive for GBV-C. None of these mutations were found in the five GBV-C-positive control-group blood donors. Of the six nucleotide changes, four caused no amino acid changes, whereas two mutations at position 100 (G to T) and 102 (T to C) led to an alanine to serine change in the predicted translation product. However, comparison with GBV-C sequences of patients with non-fulminant hepatitis showed that this amino acid mutation was not specific for fulminant hepatic failure. The sequence-motif containing the six nucleotide mutations detected in all patients with fulminant hepatic failure was found in only two of 19 German patients with chronic hepatitis from our centre, and in only one of 88 GBV-C sequences from non-fulminant patients reported by others.


The frequency of GBV-C RNA is higher in fulminant hepatic failure than in any other group of patients with hepatitis, particularly in patients with fulminant hepatitis B or fulminant non-A-E hepatitis. A specific strain of GBV-C may occur in serum of German patients with fulminant hepatic failure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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