Centre for Forensic Science, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, WA 6009, Australia.
Replication of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an error-prone process. This high error rate results in the emergence of viral populations (quasispecies) within hosts and contributes to interhost variability. Numerous studies have demonstrated that both viral and host factors contribute to this viral diversity, which can ultimately affect disease outcome. As the host's immune response is an important correlate of infection outcome for HCV, many of these viral variations are strongly influenced by T-cell immune pressure and accordingly constitute an efficient strategy to subvert such pressures (viral adaptations). This paper will review the data on viral diversity observed between and within hosts infected with HCV from the acute to the chronic stage of infection and will focus on viral adaptation to the host's T-cell immune response.