Historically, co-infection of HIV and HCV was frequent among Chinese former blood donors (FBDs). This is largely due to ignorance/lack of education regarding appropriate sterilizing techniques and/or the availability of single-use needles and equipment. Although HCV shares identical transmission routes with HIV, the source of HCV in the Chinese blood donor population still remains unknown. In this study, we investigated the evolution and transmission of HCV and HIV in Chinese FBDs group. Similar to previous reports, two HCV subtypes (HCV 1b and 2a) and one HIV subtype (Thai-B) were identified in FBDs. The HCV 1b subtype had a similar evolutionary rate of 1.9 x 10-3 substitutions/site/yr to that of HIV (2.06 x 10-3 substitutions/ site/yr) while the HCV 2a subtype had a faster evolutionary rate of 3.8 x 10-3 substitutions/site/yr. Phylogeographical analysis indicated that the introduction of HCV 1b into FBDs was estimated to be earlier than that of HCV 2a and HIV (late 1970s vs late 1980s). Bayesian Skyline Plot (BSP) analysis further confirmed our findings, showing that HCV 1b infections breached a fast exponential growth during 1991-1998, while the HCV 2a infections had a fast exponential growth occurred in around 1996-2001. Overall, this investigation helps to better understand HCV transmission in China and supports improvements of HCV prevalence control.
Phylogeographical analysis reveals distinct sources of HIV-1 and HCV transmitted to former blood donors in China.