Hepatitis C virus

The most common cause of hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) is viral infection. There are several viruses known to cause hepatitis, the most common of which are hepatitis A, B and C.

The Hepatitis C virus is an RNA virus transmitted predominantly by blood-to-blood contact. There are 6 major genetic variations of the virus known as genotypes 1 – 6. Multiple subtypes of these genotypes also exist, e.g. 1a and 1b. Genotype 1 and 3 are the most common genotypes of hepatitis C viral infection in the UK.

Hepatitis C viral infection is defined by 2 stages -  “acute” or “chronic”. Acute infection is categorised as the first 6 months following exposure to the virus and approximately 20% of people will naturally clear the virus from their body during this time. However, the remaining 80% of people will not clear the virus and will develop chronic (long-term) infection. Chronic infection is serious disease than can result in long-term health problems.