Persistent infection with hepatitis G virus (HGV) or GB virus-C (GBV-C) is common and may last for years. In addition, the principal site of virus replication remains undefined. Sequencing studies of E2 in four patients showed that a hypervariable region equivalent to that of hepatitis C virus (HCV) was absent and that viral quasispecies were less frequent than in HCV infection, particularly with respect to amino acid variation. Recurrence of viraemia following interferon treatment did not result in the emergence of new quasispecies. Virus persistence therefore does not appear to be related to immune escape by strains bearing a hypervariable E2 region. We also investigated whether virus replication occurred in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. The positive-RNA strand of the virus, but no negative strand, was detected in both serum and lymphocytes. The lymphocytes harbouring the virus were CD4 and CD19 positive. Direct sequencing and cloning of amplicons from the region of the non-structural 3 (NS3) protein showed that the nucleotide sequences in lymphocytes were different from those in serum and did not represent any of the minor serum quasispecies. Although evidence of replication in lymphocytes has not been forthcoming, the differences in sequences between serum and lymphocytes suggest that circulating virus originates from a non-hepatic site, other than lymphocytes.
- Hepatitis G virus/GBV-C
- HGV/GBV-C RNA