Quantifying transmission dynamics of acute hepatitis C virus infections in a heterogeneous population using sequence data
Opioid substitution and syringes exchange programs have drastically reduced hepatitis C virus (HCV) spread in France but HCV sexual transmission in men having sex with men (MSM) has recently arisen as a significant public health concern. The fact that the virus is transmitting in a heterogeneous population, with different transmission routes, makes prevalence and incidence rates poorly informative. However, additional insights can be gained by analyzing virus phylogenies inferred from dated genetic sequence data. By combining a phylodynamics approach based on Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) and an original transmission model, we estimate key epidemiological parameters of an ongoing HCV epidemic among MSMs in Lyon (France). We show that this new epidemic is largely independent of the previously observed non-MSM HCV epidemics and that its doubling time is ten times lower (0.44 years versus 4.37 years). These results have practical implications for HCV control and illustrate the additional information provided by virus genomics in public health.