Objective: To 1) verify the validity of a new line probe assay for hepatitis C virus [HCV] genotyping and 2) determine the distribution of HCV genotypes and the association between HCV genotype and clinical variables in patients with chronic hepatitis C seen in tertiary referral centers in the United States.
Design: Retrospective cross-sectional analysis.
Patients: 438 patients with chronic hepatitis C from 10 tertiary referral centers.
Measurements: The validity of the line probe assay was first verified against a panel of serum specimens that had previously been characterized by six different HCV genotyping methods. Specimens from all 438 patients were then genotyped using this line probe assay. The associations between HCV genotype and clinical variables were examined using analysis of variance. Pairwise testing was used when the F test showed a statistically significant difference. Nonparametric alternatives were used for variables for which normality could not be assumed.
Results: The line probe assay was quick and reproducible, and it showed good concordance with other tests. In our sample, the proportions of patients with HCV types 1, 2, 3, and 4 were 71.5%, 13.5%, 5.5%, and 1.1%, respectively. Subtypes 1a and 1b were seen in approximately equal proportions of patients with HCV type 1. Mixed infection was detected in 3.7% of specimens, and 4.8% of specimens either had negative results on polymerase chain reaction or could not be typed. A higher proportion of patients with HCV type 1 than of patients with HCV-type 1 had acquired HCV through transfusion of blood products (50% compared with 25%; P < 0.001). Patients with HCV type 1 also had a longer estimated duration of infection compared with patients with HCV type 3 (P = 0.004) and type 4 (P = 0.049). Disease activity did not differ among patients infected with HCV types 1, 2, or 3. Levels of viremia were similar in patients with HCV types 1, 2, or 3, but patients with HCV type 4 had a lower level of viremia than did patients with HCV type 1 (P = 0.047).
Conclusions: The line probe assay can be used in patients with chronic HCV infection in the United States. In patients with chronic hepatitis C referred to tertiary centers in the United States, type 1 is the most common HCV genotype. Disease activity and viremia levels do not differ among patients chronically infected with HCV types 1, 2, or 3.