Background: Previous studies found a high prevalence of pathogens among female sex workers (FSWs) in the Amazon region, and established their parenteral and sexual transmission. This study estimated the prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and associated risk factors, and the frequency of HCV genotypes and resistance-associated substitutions (RASs) in this vulnerable group.
Methods: Distinct sampling methods were used to access 412 FSWs in cities and riverside communities in the Amazon region from 2015 to 2018. Three methods for HCV diagnosis were used to determine infection status. HCV genotypes and RASs were identified by sequencing and nucleotide fragment analysis. An association between HCV infection and exposure factors was determined by bivariate and multivariate analysis.
Results: In total, 44 (10.7%) FSWs were exposed to HCV, and 32 (7.8%) of them had active infection. Nine socioeconomic characteristics and risky sexual behaviors were associated with HCV exposure, particularly unprotected sex and condom exemption for the clients who paid extra money. Genotype 1 (81.3%) and 3 (18.7%) were detected. The frequency of FSWs with RASs was 23.1% (6/26) for grazoprevir related to the occurrence of substitutions Y56F and S122G.
Conclusions: HCV infection among FSWs is highly prevalent and dominated by genotype I. Urgent preventive and treatment measures are required to reduce HCV infection in FSWs and the general population.
Keywords: HCV; amazon region; epidemiology; female sex workers; genotype; protease inhibitors; risk factors; social vulnerability; women’s health.