Distribution of hepatitis C virus genotypes in the Middle East.Int J Infect Dis. 2006 Jul; 10(4):272-7.IJ
It is well established that hepatitis C develops into cirrhosis of the liver and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) both of which are fatal diseases. The World Health Organization estimates that there are at least 21.3 million hepatitis C virus (HCV) carriers in the Eastern Mediterranean countries, which is close to the number of carriers estimated in the Americas and Europe combined. With such a high disease burden of HCV infection in this part of the world, and in light of the new evidence that genotypes may influence the outcome of antiviral therapy, the focus of this review is on the epidemiology and distribution of HCV genotypes in the Eastern Mediterranean countries. Accumulated data show that there are two main patterns for the distribution of HCV genotypes in the Middle East: in the first pattern, genotype 4 is prevalent in most of the Arab countries, and in the second pattern, genotype 1a or 1b predominates in the non-Arab countries. Results from the limited number of clinical trials on the treatment of chronic HCV genotype 4 using peginterferon alfa-2b in combination with ribavirin are encouraging. However, efforts to develop more effective antiviral therapies and the establishment of an effective HCV vaccine remain the largest challenges for the near future.