Hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype is an important predictor of disease progression and treatment response. This descriptive study investigated the sequence diversity and genotypes of HCV in South Africa based on comparative analysis of the 5' untranslated region (UTR), C/E1, and NS5B regions of 60 sequences from 52 patients. Genotype distribution in the studied population was as follows: 54% (28/52) were genotype 5, 19% (10/52) were genotype 1, 19% (10/52) were genotype 4, and 2% (1/52) were genotype 3. Three of 52 (6%) individuals were infected with multiple genotypes based on the 5'UTR. Phylogenetic analysis of the 5'UTR was accurate in determining genotypes, while the C/E1 and NS5B coding region was able to differentiate both genotypes and subtypes, including an outlier group. Furthermore, this study observed the existence of distinct variants of HCV which were divergent from confirmed genotype 4 subtypes. For the first time in South Africa, this analysis has shown the presence of HCV subtypes 4k, 4q, and 4r, as well as evidence of intragenotypic recombinant 4l/4q within NS5B. In conclusion, while genotype 5a remains the predominant genotype in South Africa, the current study indicates the introduction of new subtypes and existence of variants of genotype 4 in South Africa.
- Genetic diversity
- Hepatitis C virus (HCV)