Molecular analysis of hepatitis C virus infection in Bulgarian injecting drug users

Massimo Ciccozzi, Gianni Zehender, Valeria Cento, Alessandra Lo Presti, Pavel Teoharov, Ivan Pavlov, Violeta Bogdanova, Carlo Federico Perno, Marco Ciotti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intravenous drug users constitute a group at risk for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Today, no data are available on the molecular epidemiology of HCV in Bulgaria despite the fact that in recent years the incidence of acute hepatitis C infection among Bulgarian intravenous drug users increased sixfold and about 2/3 of them developed a chronic infection. The aim of this study was to determine the circulation of hepatitis C genotypes among drug users and to study the evolution and transmission history of the virus by molecular clock and Bayesian methods, respectively. Sequencing of NS5B gene showed that the genotype 3a was the most prevalent type among intravenous drug users. In the Bayesian tree, the 3a subtypes grouped in one main clade with one small cluster well statistically supported. The root of the tree was dated back to the year 1836, and the main clade from Bulgaria was dated 1960. The effective number of infections remained constant until about years 1950s, growing exponentially from the 1960s to the 1990s, reaching a plateau in the years 2000. The not significant intermixing with isolates from other countries may suggest a segregated circulation of the epidemic between 1940s and 1980s. The plateau reached by the epidemic in the early 2000s may indicate the partial success of the new preventive policies adopted in Bulgaria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1565-1570
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011


  • Evolution history
  • Hepatitis c virus
  • Molecular epidemiolgy
  • Transmission history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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