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Oct 23, 2006

I just read on the news 11/oct/06 that harmless persistent GB virus type C / Hepatitis G infection decreases risk of death in HIV-positive people and apparently they have known that since the early 1990s, how come nothing has been done about it? Is there a way I can catch Hepatitis G? can you tell me more about it?

Response from Dr. Frascino


Actually hepatitis G is a misnomer. GB virus C is the official name and it is not technically a hepatitis virus. It is related to hepatitis C virus, sharing about 85% of its genes, but GB virus C does not cause liver disease. The "GB" are the initials of the surgeon from whom the virus was first isolated. His blood was stored for over 30 years and scientists at Abbott Labs finally isolated the virus several years ago.

Regarding its link to delayed HIV progression, it has been known since the early days of the epidemic that different HIVers have remarkably different rates of disease progression. The mechanisms behind this have been and continue to be explored in great detail. A number of factors are now known to be involved in the rate of HIV disease progression, including HIV strain, the presence or absence of certain cell receptors, the strength of the HIVer's immune response to HIV and coinfection with other viruses. For instance, coinfection with hepatitis C virus can cause a more rapid progression of HIV while coinfection with the flavivirus, GB virus C, may delay progression of HIV disease. As mentioned above, GB virus C, even though related to hepatitis C, does not cause liver disease (or other known human disease, for that matter). Like hepatitis C, it is usually transmitted through a parenteral exposure (injection or intravenous infusions).

Should you try to get infected with GBV? No. We still have much to learn about the consequences of GBV infection and its effect on HIV progression.

Stay tuned to The Body. We'll keep you posted as more information becomes available and as this story unfolds, OK?

Dr. Bob

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