Hepatitis C virus in a hemodialysis unit: molecular evidence for nosocomial transmission.
Between February 1991 and January 1992, elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels were observed in several hemodialysis patients in a dialysis center in Dendermonde, Belgium. By the end of 1992, 25 out of 68 patients had seroconverted for HCV antibodies. The HCV strains from 23 of these seroconverters were genotyped and classified as genotype 1b. Sequence analysis of the HCV Core region was carried out in 12 patients, 9 of whom were infected with a strain bearing a unique sequence motif as compared with the currently known HCV 1b strains. A new 5' UR/Core line probe assay was designed to screen for such variations. Twenty patients tested positively for this special sequence motif, while the other 3 showed the regular subtype 1b sequence. Phylogenetic analysis of the Core sequences further revealed that the latter three were neither related to the main special strain of the infection, nor to each other. These three strains could be traced to two patients already infected at the time of residence in other dialysis units and to one patient who already showed ALT elevations in 1989. Epidemiological studies revealed no traceable source for this outbreak. In conclusion, molecular analysis demonstrates nosocomial transmissions by a peculiar genotype 1b strain in a dialysis center. Three other genotype 1b strains were also present in the unit, but were not responsible for the outbreak.
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