The heterogeneity of hypervariable region 1 (HVR1), located at the amino terminus of the E2 envelope, may be involved in resistance to alpha interferon (IFN-α) treatment. We investigated whether peculiar HVR1 domain profiles before treatment were associated with the maintenance of sensitivity or the appearance of resistance to treatment. Fifteen patients infected with hepatitis C virus genotype 1b and treated with IFN with or without ribavirin were selected. Ten responded to treatment (groups R1 and R2) and five did not (group NR). The amino acid sequences of 150 naturally occurring HVR1 variants present in the serum before therapy were compared in relation to treatment outcome. HVR1 variants from the NR group contained a constant nonantigenic amino acid segment that was not found in HVR1 variants from the R groups
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