Background & Aims Little is known about the epidemiology and frequency of recombinant HCV genotype 2/1 strains, which may represent a challenge for direct antiviral therapy (DAA). This study aims to identify the epidemiology and phylogeny of HCV genotype 2/1 strains and encourages genotype screening, to select the DAA-regimen that achieves the optimal sustained virologic response. Methods Consecutive samples from HCV genotype 2 infected patients, according to commercial genotyping, from Germany, Italy and Israel were re-genotyped by Sanger-based sequencing. Virologic, epidemiological, and phylogenetic analyses including other published chimeras were performed. Results Sequence analysis of 442 supposed HCV genotype 2 isolates revealed 61 (genotype 2k/1b (n = 59), 2a/1b (n = 1) or 2b/1a (n = 1)) chimeras. No chimeras were observed in Italy, but the frequency was 14% and 25% in Germany and Israel. Treatment of viral chimera with sofosbuvir/ribavirin led to virologic relapse in 25/27 patients (93%). Nearly all patients treated with genotype 1-based DAA-regimens initially (n = 8/9), or after relapse (n = 13/13), achieved a sustained virologic response. Most patients with 2k/1b chimeras (88%) were originally from eight different areas of the former Soviet Union. All known 2k/1b chimeras harbour the same recombination breakpoint and build one phylogenetic cluster, while all other chimeras have different phylogenies. Conclusions The HCV genotype 2k/1b variant derives from one single recombination event most likely in the former Soviet Union, while other chimeras are unique and develop independently. A relatively high frequency has been observed along the migration flows, in Germany and Israel. In countries with little migration from the former Soviet Union the prevalence of 2k/1b chimeras is expected to be low. Treatment with sofosbuvir plus ribavirin is insufficient, but genotype 1-based regimens seem to be effective. Lay summary: The frequency of recombinant HCV is higher than expected. A novel recombinant variant (HCV genotype 2a/1b) was identified. Screening for recombinant viruses would contribute to increased response rates to direct antiviral therapy.
- HCV genotype
ASJC Scopus subject areas