Determining the source of nosocomial transmission in hemodialysis units in Tunisia by sequencing NS5B and E2 sequences of HCV

Fatma Hmaïed, Myriam Ben Mamou, Martine Dubois, Christophe Pasquier, Karine Sandres-Saune, Lionel Rostaing, Amine Slim, Zakia Arrouji, Saïda Ben Redjeb, Jacques Izopet
Journal of Medical Virology 2007, 79 (8): 1089-94
Hepatitis C virus infection is a significant problem in hemodialysis units. HCV is very variable genetically with six genotypes. Clinical and epidemiological investigation of a new infection requires the determination of both the genotype and the strain of the HCV involved. A prospective, epidemiologic study of 395 dialysis patients in Tunisia was conducted from November 2001 to November 2003 to identify the source of nosocomial transmission using phylogenetic analysis of NS5b and E2 sequences. Hepatitis C infection was diagnosed by screening for anti-HCV antibodies and HCV RNA in sera using third generation ELISA and a qualitative RT-PCR assay. HCV strains were genotyped by sequencing the NS5b region. The genetic relatedness of the HCV strains was studied by sequencing the NS5b and the HVR-1 regions of the HCV genome. Two de novo cases of HCV infection were detected during the follow-up. One of them has been described previously. The case described in this study occurred in a center in which 12 patients were already infected with HCV strains belonging to genotypes 1b (n = 8) and 1a (n = 4). Phylogenetic analysis of the NS5b region from the HCV strains circulating in this center disclosed four clusters, confirmed by analysis of the HVR-1 region, providing strong evidence for nosocomial infection. Epidemiological data showed that these patients were dialyzed during the same shift and in the same area. Phylogenetic analysis of NS5b sequences is useful for determining the HCV genotype and providing evidence of nosocomial transmission.

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