Background/aims: This study investigates the occurrence of HCV reinfection and superinfection among HCV seroconverters participating in the Amsterdam Cohort Studies among drug users from 1985 through 2005.
Methods: HCV seroconverters (n=59) were tested for HCV RNA at five different time points: the last visit before seroconversion (t=-1), the first visit after seroconversion (t=1), six months after (t=2) and one year after (t=3) seroconversion, and the last visit prior to November 2005 (t=4). If HCV RNA was present, part of the NS5B region was amplified and sequenced. Additional phylogenetic analysis and cloning was performed to establish HCV reinfection and superinfection.
Results: Multiple HCV infections were detected in 23/59 (39%) seroconverters; 7 had HCV reinfections, 14 were superinfected, and 2 had reinfection followed by superinfection. At the moment of HCV reinfection, 7/9 seroconverters were HIV-negative: persistent HCV reinfection developed in both HIV-positive cases but also in 4/7 HIV-negative cases. In total, we identified 93 different HCV infections, varying from 1 to 4 infections per seroconverter. Multiple HCV infections were observed in 10/24 seroconverters with spontaneous HCV clearance (11 reinfections, 3 superinfections) and in 13/35 seroconverters without viral clearance (20 superinfections).
Conclusions: HCV reinfection and superinfection are common among actively injecting drug users. This might further complicate the development of an effective HCV vaccine.