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J Virol. 2003 Jul;77(14):7914-23.

Frequent recovery and broad genotype 2 diversity characterize hepatitis C virus infection in Ghana, West Africa.

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National Blood Service, East Anglia Blood Centre, Long Road, Cambridge CB2 2PT, United Kingdom.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is thought to mostly become chronic and rarely resolves. HCV infection was serologically screened in 4,984 samples from Ghanaian blood donors, and 1.3% prevalence was found. At least 53% of confirmed anti-HCV carriers had no detectable viral RNA and were considered to have cleared the virus and recovered from the infection. Confirmation was authenticated by the presence of antibodies specific to at least two viral antigens, mostly NS3 and E2. Reactivity to HCV core antigens was lower in Ghanaian than United Kingdom blood donors. The minority of chronically infected donors carried a viral load significantly lower than an unselected comparative group of United Kingdom blood donors (2.5 x 10(5) versus 2.9 x 10(6) IU/ml; P = 0.004). HCV genotype 2 was largely predominant (87%). Sequence clustering was similarly broad in the E1/E2 and NS5 regions. The phylogenetic diversity and the incapacity to distinguish subtypes within genotype 2 in our and others' West African strains suggested that West Africa may be the origin of HCV genotype 2. The genetic diversity extended to the identification of strains clearly separated from known subtypes of genotype 2 and genotype 1. One strain appears to be part of a new HCV genotype. HCV infection in Ghana is characterized by a high rate of recovery and the predominance of broadly divergent genotype 2 strains.

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