Genotypes of hepatitis C virus (HCV) present within 104 samples from HCV-infected individuals from Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia were identified by sequence comparisons in the core and NS-5 regions. Relatively short sequences (such as the 222 bp fragment of NS-5) provided effective discrimination of types, subtypes and isolates, and produced equivalent relationships between genotypes as were found upon comparison of longer sequences of NS-5, of the core region, and by comparison of the limited number of complete genomic sequences currently available. Measurement of evolutionary distances in the core and NS-5 regions allowed 79 of the 104 samples to be identified as examples of known genotypes, while 17 of the remainder could be provisionally classified as new subtypes of types 1 (Nigeria), 2 (Gambia), 3 (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and 4 (Middle East) on the basis of sequence comparison in core and NS-5 ( = 9) or provisionally using core alone ( = 8). The remaining sequences from Thailand made up two groups showing no close similarity to any of the six major genotypes classified to date, although one corresponded to an as yet unclassified variant of HCV also found in Thailand. However, phylogenetic analysis of the core and NS-5 regions indicated a distant relationship between these sequences with variants found in Vietnam and with type 6a, and collectively they formed a diverse single phylogenetic group. The existence of great diversity within a single genotype was also found amongst type 3 sequences in the Indian subcontinent, amongst type 4 variants in Central Africa and the Middle East, and amongst type variants in Nigeria. These findings may provide clues for understanding the origins and mechanisms of transmission of HCV.


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