Affiliations: Laboratory Branch, Division of Viral Hepatitis, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA
Note:  Corresponding author: I.V. Astrakhantsev, Laboratory Branch, Division of Viral Hepatitis, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd, MS A-33, Atlanta, GA 30300, USA. Tel.: +1 404 639 1150; Fax: +1 404 639 1563; E-mail: [email protected].
Note:  Authors contributed equally.
Abstract: Distinguishing between acute and chronic HCV infections is clinically important given that early treatment of infected patients leads to high rates of sustained virological response. Analysis of 2179 clonal sequences derived from hypervariable region 1 (HVR1) of the HCV genome in samples obtained from patients with acute (n = 49) and chronic (n = 102) HCV infection showed that intra-host HVR1 diversity was 1.8 times higher in patients with chronic than acute infection. Significant differences in frequencies of 5 amino acids (positions 5, 7, 12, 16 and 18) and the average genetic distances among intra-host HVR1 variants were found using analysis of molecular variance. Differences were also observed in the polarity, volume and hydrophobicity of 10 amino acids (at positions 1, 4, 5, 12, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 and 29). Based on these properties, a classification model could be constructed, which permitted HVR1 variants from acute and chronic cases to be discriminated with an accuracy of 88%. Progression from acute to chronic stage of HCV infection is accompanied by characteristic changes in amino acid composition of HVR1. Identifying these changes may permit diagnosis of recent HCV infection.
Keywords: HCV infection, acute, chronic, quasispecies, hypervariable region 1