Effect of immune pressure on hepatitis C virus evolution: Insights from a single-source outbreak
Merani S., Petrovic D., James I., Chopra A., Cooper D., Freitas E., Rauch A., Di Iulio J., John M., Lucas M., Fitzmaurice K., Mckiernan S., Norris S., Kelleher D., Klenerman P., Gaudieri S.
The host's immune response to hepatitis C virus (HCV) can result in the selection of characteristic mutations (adaptations) that enable the virus to escape this response. The ability of the virus to mutate at these sites is dependent on the incoming virus, the fitness cost incurred by the mutation, and the benefit to the virus in escaping the response. Studies examining viral adaptation in chronic HCV infection have shown that these characteristic immune escape mutations can be observed at the population level as human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-specific viral polymorphisms. We examined 63 individuals with chronic HCV infection who were infected from a single HCV genotype 1b source. Our aim was to determine the extent to which the host's immune pressure affects HCV diversity and the ways in which the sequence of the incoming virus, including preexisting escape mutations, can influence subsequent mutations in recipients and infection outcomes. Conclusion: HCV sequences from these individuals revealed 29 significant associations between specific HLA types within the new hosts and variations within their viruses, which likely represent new viral adaptations. These associations did not overlap with previously reported adaptations for genotypes 1a and 3a and possibly reflected a combination of constraint due to the incoming virus and genetic distance between the strains. However, these sites accounted for only a portion of the sites in which viral diversity was observed in the new hosts. Furthermore, preexisting viral adaptations in the incoming (source) virus likely influenced the outcomes in the new hosts. © 2011 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.