Department of Gastroenterology and Nephrology, Chiba University, Graduate School of Medicine, Chiba, Japan.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) subgenotypes 1a and 1b have different impacts on the treatment response to peginterferon plus ribavirin with direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) against patients infected with HCV genotype 1, as the emergence rates of resistance mutations are different between these two subgenotypes. In Japan, almost all of HCV genotype 1 belongs to subgenotype 1b.
METHODS AND FINDINGS:
To determine HCV subgenotype 1a or 1b in Japanese patients infected with HCV genotype 1, real-time PCR-based method and Sanger method were used for the HCV NS5B region. HCV subgenotypes were determined in 90% by real-time PCR-based method. We also analyzed the specific probe regions for HCV subgenotypes 1a and 1b using ultra-deep sequencing, and uncovered mutations that could not be revealed using direct-sequencing by Sanger method. We estimated the prevalence of HCV subgenotype 1a as 1.2-2.5% of HCV genotype 1 patients in Japan.
Although real-time PCR-based HCV subgenotyping method seems fair for differentiating HCV subgenotypes 1a and 1b, it may not be sufficient for clinical practice. Ultra-deep sequencing is useful for revealing the resistant strain(s) of HCV before DAA treatment as well as mixed infection with different genotypes or subgenotypes of HCV.