Molecular epidemiology of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in Greece: temporal trends in HCV genotype-specific incidence and molecular characterization of genotype 4 isolates.
Katsoulidou A., Sypsa V., Tassopoulos NC., Boletis J., Karafoulidou A., Ketikoglou I., Tsantoulas D., Vafiadi I., Hatzis G., Skoutelis A., Akriviadis E., Vasiliadis T., Kitis G., Magiorkinis G., Hatzakis A.
This study aimed to estimate the overall HCV genotype distribution and to reconstruct the HCV genotype-specific incidence in Greece during the recent decades. It also focused at the identification of genotype 4 subtype variability in Greek isolates. A total of 1686 chronically infected HCV patients with detectable serum HCV RNA by RT-PCR, belonging to different risk groups were studied. Amplified products from the 5'-noncoding region were typed using a commercially available assay based on the reverse hybridization principle. The HCV genotype-specific incidence was estimated using a previously described back calculation method. HCV genotype 1 was the most prevalent (46.9%) followed by genotype 3 (28.1%), 4 (13.2%), 2 (6.9%) and 5 (0.4%). A high prevalence of genotype 1 (66.3%) in haemophilia patients was recorded whereas HCV genotype 3 was found mainly among patients infected by I.V. drug use (58.2%). Data on the temporal patterns of HCV genotype-specific incidence in Greece revealed a moderate increase (1.3-1.6 times) for genotypes 1 and 4, and a decrease (1.5 times) for genotype 2 from 1970 to 1990, whereas there was a sharp (13-fold) increase for genotype 3. The molecular characterization of 41 genotype 4 HCV isolates belonging to various risk groups revealed that, subtype 4a was the most frequently detected (78%). Phylogenetic comparison of the Greek 4a isolates with all HCV-4a isolates reported worldwide so far revealed a topology which does not discriminate Greek isolates from the others. HCV-4 does not represent a recent introduction in Greece.