High prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection and predominance of genotype 4 in rural Gabon.
Ndong-Atome GR., Makuwa M., Ouwe-Missi-Oukem-Boyer O., Pybus OG., Branger M., Le Hello S., Boye-Cheik SB., Brun-Vezinet F., Kazanji M., Roques P., Bisser S.
Hepatitis C (HCV) molecular epidemiology is documented poorly in central African countries. In response to this, a population-based study of 319 consenting adults resident in a remote village of Gabon was undertaken (mean age: 38 years; age range: 13-85+; sex ratio: 0.74). Screening for anti-HCV antibodies was performed using ELISA and recombinant immunoblot assay. Seropositive samples were assessed further with viral load and genotyping techniques. Sixty-six (20.7%) individuals were HCV seropositive. Viral loads ranged from 600 to 24.9 million IU/ml (median: 372,500). Seroprevalence and viral loads increased significantly with age (P < 10(-5) and P < 0.003, respectively). HCV sequences of the 5'UTR genome region were obtained from 60 (90.9%) samples and NS5B region sequences were obtained from 22 (36.6%) samples. All strains belonged to subtypes of genotype 4: 4e (72.7%), 4c (13.6%), 4p (4.5%), 4r (4.5%) and one unclassified genotype 4 strain. Evolutionary analysis of the subtype 4e sequences indicates a period of raised transmission during the early twentieth century.