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Virol J. 2005 Apr 19;2:37.

Transmission of human hepatitis C virus from patients in secondary cells for long term culture.

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Department of Biology, California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, USA.


Infection by human hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the principal cause of post-transfusion hepatitis and chronic liver diseases worldwide. A reliable in vitro culture system for the isolation and analysis of this virus is not currently available, and, as a consequence, HCV pathogenesis is poorly understood. We report here the first robust in vitro system for the isolation and propagation of HCV from infected donor blood. This system involves infecting freshly prepared macrophages with HCV and then transmission of macrophage-adapted virus into freshly immortalized B-cells from human fetal cord blood. Using this system, newly isolated HCV have been replicated in vitro in continuous cultures for over 130 weeks. These isolates were also transmitted by cell-free methods into different cell types, including B-cells, T-cells and neuronal precursor cells. These secondarily infected cells also produced in vitro transmissible infectious virus. Replication of HCV-RNA was validated by RT-PCR analysis and by in situ hybridization. Although nucleic acid sequencing of the HCV isolate reported here indicates that the isolate is probably of type 1a, other HCV types have also been isolated using this system. Western blot analysis shows the synthesis of major HCV structural proteins. We present here, for the first time, a method for productively growing HCV in vitro for prolonged periods of time. This method allows studies related to understanding the replication process, viral pathogenesis, and the development of anti-HCV drugs and vaccines.

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