Molecular tracing of the global hepatitis C virus epidemic predicts regional patterns of hepatocellular carcinoma mortality

Yasuhito Tanaka, Fuat Kurbanov, Shuhei Mano, Etsuro Orito, Victor Vargas, Juan I Esteban, Man-Fung Yuen, Ching-Lung Lai, Anna Kramvis, Michael C Kew, Heidi E Smuts, Sergey V Netesov, Harvey J Alter, Masashi Mizokami
Gastroenterology 2006, 130 (3): 703-14

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Molecular evolutionary analysis based on coalescent theory can provide important insights into epidemiologic processes worldwide. This approach was combined with analyses of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemiologic-historical background and HCV-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in different countries.

METHODS: The HCV gene sequences of 131 genotype 1b (HCV-1b) strains from Japan, 38 HCV-1a strains from the United States, 33 HCV-1b strains from Spain, 27 HCV-3a strains from the former Soviet Union (FSU), 47 HCV-4a strains from Egypt, 25 HCV-5a strains from South Africa, and 24 HCV-6a strains from Hong Kong isolated in this study and previous studies were analyzed.

RESULTS: The coalescent analysis indicated that a transition from constant size to rapid exponential growth (spread time) occurred in Japan in the 1920s (HCV-1b), but not until the 1940s for the same genotype in Spain and other European countries. The spread time of HCV-1a in the United States was estimated to be in the 1960s; HCV-3a in the FSU, HCV-5a in South Africa, and HCV-6a in Hong Kong in the 1960s, mid-1950s, and late 1970s, respectively. Three different linear progression curves were determined by analysis of the relationship between HCV seroprevalence and HCC mortality in different geographic regions; a steep ascent indicated the greatest progression to HCC in Japan, a near horizontal line indicated the least progression in the United States and the FSU, and an intermediate slope was observed in Europe.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings strongly suggest that the initial spread time of HCV is associated with the progression dynamics of HCC in each area, irrespective of genotype.

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