Background: Previously, we have reported the isolation and molecular characterization of human Hepatitis C virus genotype 1 (HCV-1) from infected patients. We are now reporting an analysis of HCV obtained from patients infected with HCV genotype 3 (HCV-3) as diagnosed by clinical laboratories.
Results: HCV was cultured in vitro using our system. HCV RNA was isolated from patients' blood and from HCV cultured in various cell types for up to three months. The 5'UTR of these isolates were used for comparisons. Results revealed a number of sequence changes as compared to the serum RNA. The HCV RNA produced efficiently by infected macrophages, B-cells, and T-cells had sequences similar to HCV-1, which suggests that selection of the variants was performed at the level of macrophages. Virus with sequences similar to HCV-1 replicated better in macrophages than HCV having a 5'UTR similar to HCV-3.
Conclusions: Although HCV-3 replicates in cell types such as B-cells, T-cells, and macrophages, it may require a different primary cell type for the same purpose. Therefore, in our opinion, HCV-3 does not replicate efficiently in macrophages, and patients infected with HCV-3 may contain a population of HCV-1 in their blood.