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Molecular epidemiology of hepatitis C virus genotypes in different geographical regions of Punjab Province in Pakistan and a phylogenetic analysis

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Published:25th Mar 2020
Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a causative agent of chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. In Pakistan, more than 10 million people are living with HCV. Very little is known about the genotype distribution in Punjab Province, the largest province of Pakistan. Pretreatment genotype identification is very important, as different HCV genotypes respond differently to interferon therapy. Methods: In this study we performed HCV genotyping for 1537 HCV-infected patients from different districts of Punjab Province, Pakistan. Sequencing of partial HCV NS5B sequences from 14 samples belonging to genotypes 3 and 1 was also done. A sequence comparison was made of our reported sequences with those reported in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), and a phylogenetic tree was constructed. Results: Our study showed that the most frequent HCV genotype was 3a (in 88.1% of infected individuals), followed by 1a (3.5%), 3b (3.0%), 1b (0.8%), and 2a (1.0%). A mixed genotype infection was found in 3.6% of infected individuals, with 0.3% living with 1a+1b co-infection, 3.1% with 3a+3b, and 0.2% suffering from 3a+1b co-infection. The sequence comparison showed that HCV NS5B motif B residues G283, T287, and N291 were highly conserved in both genotype 1 and genotype 3 sequences, while the motif B residue T286 was mutated to proline in all the genotype 3 sequences. The GDD motif, which forms the catalytic pocket and binding site for the divalent cations, was highly conserved in all the reported sequences. The phylogenetic tree suggests clustering of genotype 1 sequences with sequences from the USA, UK, Germany, and France, while genotype 3 sequences are clustered with sequences from Japan and the UK. Conclusions: The major prevalent genotype in Punjab Province of Pakistan was genotype 3a, followed by genotype 1a, and only 3.6% of infected individuals had a mixed genotype infection. Sequencing of the HCV NS5B gene suggested that the active site residues were highly conserved in all the reported sequences. Our sequences, which are clustered with sequences from the USA, UK, France, and Japan, show the diversity in origin of the different genotypes prevalent in Pakistan.

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