The majority of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection results in chronic infection, which can lead to liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Global burden of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is estimated at 150 million individuals, or 3% of the world's population. The distribution of the seven major genotypes of HCV varies with geographical regions. Since Asia has a high incidence of HCV, we assessed the distribution of HCV genotypes in Thailand and Southeast Asia. From 588 HCV-positive samples obtained throughout Thailand, we characterized the HCV 5' untranslated region, Core, and NS5B regions by nested PCR. Nucleotide sequences obtained from both the Core and NS5B of these isolates were subjected to phylogenetic analysis, and genotypes were assigned using published reference genotypes. Results were compared to the epidemiological data of HCV genotypes identified within Southeast Asian. Among the HCV subtypes characterized in the Thai samples, subtype 3a was the most predominant (36.4%), followed by 1a (19.9%), 1b (12.6%), 3b (9.7%) and 2a (0.5%). While genotype 1 was prevalent throughout Thailand (27-36%), genotype 3 was more common in the south. Genotype 6 (20.9%) constituted subtype 6f (7.8%), 6n (7.7%), 6i (3.4%), 6j and 6m (0.7% each), 6c (0.3%), 6v and 6xa (0.2% each) and its prevalence was significantly lower in southern Thailand compared to the north and northeast (p = 0.027 and p = 0.030, respectively). Within Southeast Asia, high prevalence of genotype 6 occurred in northern countries such as Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, while genotype 3 was prevalent in Thailand and Malaysia. Island nations of Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines demonstrated prevalence of genotype 1. This study further provides regional HCV genotype information that may be useful in fostering sound public health policy and tracking future patterns of HCV spread.
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