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Genetic Determinants of Viral Clearance in HCV-Infected Populations

The World Health Organization estimates there are 170 million persons with HCV infection worldwide, and an estimated 4 million persons are infected in the United States. Persistent HCV infection can cause cirrhosis and hepatocellular cancer. Long term disease consequences do not occur in persons who spontaneously recover. It is not known why 10-40% recover from hepatitis C (and are not at increased risk of cirrhosis and cancer), but that knowledge would contribute to efforts to treat and/or prevent HCV infection. The overall purpose of this study is to investigate the host genetic basis for recovery from hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. There is strong evidence that host genetic differences determine HCV recovery. After accidental exposure to the same HCV inoculum, some persons recover while others develop persistent infection. Recovery from HCV infection is an outstanding phenotype for genetic studies since both viral exposure and viral recovery can be ascertained with high sensitivity and specificity and since there are no known viral or environmental determinants.

The study group is comprised of an ethnically and geographically diverse international population. All cohorts comprising this study group of 3350 individuals are well characterized. This case-control study is comprised of approximately 40% clearance individuals who are matched by age and HIV status within their respective cohorts at a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 with HCV chronically infected individuals.