Hepatitis C virus (HCV) can be classified into six major genotypes, the prevalences of which differ around the world. In Japan, the main genotypes are HCV 1 and HCV 2; others are found only rarely. Little is known about the prevalence in Japan of HCV genotype 4 which, is found frequently in North and Central Africa and the Middle East. Thus, we conducted a study to clarify distribution of HCV genotype 4 and the clinical demographics of patients with HCV genotype 4 in Japan. We examined HCV genotypes in 899 Japanese individuals with HCV viremia living in Aichi Prefecture, including 63 hemophiliacs. Four patients (0.4%) were infected with HCV genotype 4. All four of these patients were male hemophiliacs who had received clotting factors from foreign countries. Three patients were co-infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); none were co-infected with GB virus-C/hepatitis G virus. Phylogenetic analysis of the E1 region indicated that all four patients were infected with subtype 4a. This subtype is related genetically to a subtype previously reported in Japanese and Italian hemophiliacs. HCV genotype 4 is indeed rare in Japan and may be detected only among hemophiliacs who have received inactivated clotting factor concentrates from foreign countries.
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