The Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)

October 13, 2008

It’s quite confusing for people to hear that the Hepatitis C virus is unrelated to Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and the other Hepatitis viruses.

If they’re unrelated, why do they all have the same name?
The answer lies in the fact that the prefix “hep” refers to the liver, so what the hepatitis viruses have in common is that they primarily affect the liver.

Other than that connection to the other hepatitis viruses, Hepatitis C stands on its own.
Within the Hepatitis C virus, there are six broad categories of the virus, called genotypes. They are numbered as genotypes 1-6. In addition, there are multiple sub types or sub categories; for example, genotype 1 is sub-divided into type 1a and 1b.

The genotypes play an important role in determining what type of therapy will be used to treat the virus and the anticipated outcome or result. For example, interferon treatment tends to be more effective with HCV genotype 2 and genotype 3, whereas genotypes 1 and 4 do not respond well to interferon.

Genotypes also tend to have a geographic component, with certain types and sub types more likely to be found in certain areas. For example, most of the Hepatitis C found in the United States is type 1a or 1b.

Hepatitis C is has RNA as its basic genetic material and is thus known as an RNA virus. HCV is a virus with many mutations, which is one of the reasons it is so hard to treat and medical science has yet to be able to wipe it out with an effective vaccine as it has succeeded in doing with many other diseases.

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