Hepatitis C Genotypes: The Basics

Hepatitis C Genotypes: The BasicsHepatitis C Genotypes

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) has different types or strains called genotypes. Some resources say eleven hep C genotypes, with several different subtypes, have been identified throughout the world. Only six of them are common. The most common HCV genotype in Canada is HCV genotype 1 (named genotype 1 as it was the first hep C virus type to be discovered). HCV genotype 1 has two sub-genotypes:  1a and 1b.

Did you know?
Most people with the hep C virus are infected by just one virus genotype, BUT a person can be infected with more than one type at the same time. This makes harm reduction and prevention important when someone has hep C.  Prevention and harm reduction work to not only protect those who don’t have hep C, but protects someone from being infected with different genotypes of the virus.

Where the Different Hep C Genotypes are Most Common

  • Genotype 1 in North America
  • Genotypes 1, 2, and 3 globally
  • Genotype 4 in northern Africa
  • Genotype 5 in South Africa
  • Genotype 6 in Asia

Hepatitis C Genotype Testing

To find out what genotype a person with hep C has, blood is drawn at a lab and a HCV RNA test is done to look at parts of the virus’ genetic makeup called nucleotides. As explained above, every hep C genotype has a unique genetic makeup.

Hepatitis C Genotypes and Hep C Treatment

The type of hep C infection one has doesn’t determine how bad their hep C symptoms may be. For example, having HCV genotype 1 doesn’t mean that a person will experience fewer hep C symptoms than someone with genotype 2 hep C. However, hep C genotypes do affect a treatment’s possible success and its side effects. Therefore, right now, each hep C genotype has its own treatments and set of treatment lengths that work best against it. For example, the treatment peginterferon and ribavirin is more likely to work for people who have genotype 2 or 3, and do so with fewer side effects, than they are when those drugs are prescribed to a person with HCV genotype 1. Therefore, every genotype has its own unique treatment.

To be continued…please look out for our upcoming blog posts about hep C geotype 1 treatments and genotype 2-6 treatments.

Additional Resources