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Hepatitis C Virus Genotype Diversity among Intravenous Drug Users in Yunnan Province, Southwestern China
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    Background

    Recently, high proportions (15.6%–98.7%) of intravenous drug users (IDUs) in China were found to be positive for hepatitis C virus (HCV). Yunnan Province is located in southwestern China and borders one of the world's most important opium-producing regions, thus it is an important drug trafficking route to other regions of China.

    Methodology/Principal Findings

    Here, we assessed 100 HCV-positive plasma samples from IDUs who were enrolled through the Kunming Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012. HCV C/E1 fragments were PCR-amplified and sequenced. We identified eight HCV subtypes (1a, 1b, 3a, 3b, 6a, 6n, 6u and 6v), of which genotype 6 was most predominant (frequency, 47%) followed by genotypes 3 (41%) and 1 (12%). HCV subtypes 6n (30%) and 3b (29%) were most common and were identified in 59% of the IDUs. We compared HCV genotypes among IDUs in Yunnan Province with those from other regions and found that the distribution patterns of HCV genotypes in Yunnan Province were similar to those in southern China, but different from those in eastern China. However, the distribution patterns of HCV subtypes varied among Yunnan Province and southern China, despite the shared similar genotypes. A comparison of the current data with those previously reported showed that the frequency of HCV genotype 6 increased from 25% to 47% within 5 years, especially subtypes 6a (5% to 15%) and 6n (11.2% to 30%). In contrast, the frequencies of subtypes 3b and 1b decreased by almost 50% within 5 years.

    Conclusion/Significance

    Our results provided further information to support the assertion that drug trafficking routes influence HCV transmission patterns among IDUs in Yunnan Province. The frequency of HCV genotypes and subtypes changed rapidly among IDUs in Yunnan Province and subtypes 6a and 6n may have originated in Vietnam and Myanmar, respectively.

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