The genomic RNA of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the plasma of volunteer blood donors was detected by using the polymerase chain reaction in a fraction of density 1·08 g/ml from sucrose density gradient equilibrium centrifugation. When the fraction was treated with the detergent NP40 and recentrifuged in sucrose, the HCV RNA banded at 1·25 g/ml. Assuming that NP40 removed a lipid-rich surface coat from HCV, the 1·08 g/ml and 1·25 g/ml HCV RNA may correspond to intact HCV virions and nucleocapsids, respectively. The extraordinarily low density of the virion is unusual in comparison to the density of classified viruses.


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