Pegylated-interferon plus ribavirin (PEG-IFN/RBV) therapy is a current standard treatment for chronic hepatitis C. We previously reported that the viral sequence heterogeneity of part of NS5A, referred to as the IFN/RBV resistance-determining region (IRRDR), and a mutation at position 70 of the core protein of hepatitis C virus genotype 1b (HCV-1b) are significantly correlated with the outcome of PEG-IFN/RBV treatment. Here, we aimed to investigate the impact of viral genetic variations within the NS5A and core regions of other genotypes, HCV-2a and HCV-2b, on PEG-IFN/RBV treatment outcome. Pretreatment sequences of NS5A and core regions were analyzed in 112 patients infected with HCV-2a or HCV-2b, who were treated with PEG-IFN/RBV for 24 weeks and followed up for another 24 weeks. The results demonstrated that HCV-2a isolates with 4 or more mutations in IRRDR (IRRDR[2a]≥4) was significantly associated with rapid virological response at week 4 (RVR) and sustained virological response (SVR). Also, another region of NS5A that corresponds to part of the IFN sensitivity-determining region (ISDR) plus its carboxy-flanking region, which we referred to as ISDR/+C[2a], was significantly associated with SVR in patients infected with HCV-2a. Multivariate analysis revealed that IRRDR[2a]≥4 was the only independent predictive factor for SVR. As for HCV-2b infection, an N-terminal half of IRRDR having two or more mutations (IRRDR[2b]/N≥2) was significantly associated with RVR, but not with SVR. No significant correlation was observed between core protein polymorphism and PEG-IFN/RBV treatment outcome in HCV-2a or HCV-2b infection. Conclusion: The present results suggest that sequence heterogeneity of NS5A of HCV-2a (IRRDR[2a]≥4 and ISDR/+C[2a]), and that of HCV-2b (IRRDR[2b]/N≥2) to a lesser extent, is involved in determining the viral sensitivity to PEG-IFN/RBV therapy.
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