The HCV stem-loop subdomains III-a, -b and -c have been shown to reflect the characteristics of the virus and identify isolates by genus, genotype and subtype. The aim of this study was to investigate the genotype-specific PNS within the 5’UTR of prevalent HCV genotypes (1 and 5a) found in South Africa. The genotype 5a (N=35) and genotype 1 sequences (N=20) were from patients presenting with liver disease or haemophilia, respectively. PNS HCV typing characteristics, defined previously, were observed. The
PNS method differentiated subtypes 1a and 1c from subtype 1b by the base change at nucleotide position 243. A lack of structural data from the variable loci V1 of the 5’UTR did not allow us to further differentiate the subtypes of 1. A nucleotide change from a thymine (T) to a cytosine (C) at position 183 was found among genotype 5a sequences.
This mutation changed the stable U-AA bond to a Y AA bulge at base-pair position 32.
There was an insertion of a single adenine (A) at position 207. At present PNS analysis is labour intensive but, with development of further software to aid the computer analysis, it
has the potential to provide a rapid, reliable alternative to phylogenetic analysis.