Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemic in Western countries is primarily perpetuated by the sub-populations of men who have sex with men (MSM) and people who inject drugs (PWID). Understanding the dynamics of transmission in these communities is crucial for removing the remaining hurdles towards HCV elimination. We sequenced 269 annotated HCV plasma samples using probe enrichment and next-generation sequencing, obtaining 224 open reading frames of HCV (OR497849-OR498072). Maximum likelihood phylogenies were generated on the four most prevalent subtypes in this study (HCV1a, 1b, 3a, 4d) with a subsequent transmission cluster analysis. The highest rate of clustering was observed for HCV4d samples (13/17 (76.47%)). The second highest rate of clustering was observed in HCV1a samples (42/78 (53.85%)) with significant association with HIV-positive MSM. HCV1b and HCV3a had very low rates of clustering (2/83 (2.41%) and (0/29)). The spread of the prevalent subtype HCV1b appears to have been largely curtailed, and we demonstrate the onwards transmission of HCV1a and HCV4d in the HIV-positive MSM population across municipal borders. More systematic data collection and sequencing is needed to allow a better understanding of the HCV transmission among the community of PWID and overcome the remaining barriers for HCV elimination in Belgium.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





Laboratory of Clinical and Epidemiological Virology, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Transplantation, Rega Institute for Medical Research, KU Leuven, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Humans, Hepacivirus, Hepatitis C, HIV Infections, HIV Seropositivity, Substance Abuse, Intravenous, Homosexuality, Male, Phylogeny, Belgium, Male, High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing, Sexual and Gender Minorities