Laboratory of Infectious Disease Prevention, New York Blood Center, New York, United States of America.
Columbia University Medical Center, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, New York, United States of America.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Baltimore, United States of America.
School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, United States of America.
Laboratory of Data Analytics, New York Blood Center, New York, United States of America.
BioInfoExperts, LLC, Thibodaux, United States of America.
Rutgers the State University of New Jersey, Department of Statistics, Piscataway, United States of America.
City University of New York School of Medicine, New York, United States of America.
Emerging sexually transmitted hepatitis C virus (HCV) epidemics among men who have sex with men (MSM) have been reported worldwide, with higher HCV infection rates among those who are HIV-infected. This study aims to determine prevalence of recent and chronic HCV infections among community-recruited MSM in New York City (NYC), map HCV infections by home, social, and sexual neighborhoods, and identify clusters of genetically linked HCV variants using phylogenetic analysis. The NYC M2M study recruited MSM via modified time-space, venue-based sampling and internet/mobile app-based recruitment during 2010-13. Participants completed a Google Earth map on neighborhoods of where they lived, socialized, and had sex in the last 3 months, an ACASI questionnaire, and a sexual network inventory about their sex partners. The men received HIV testing and provided serum samples. Testing on stored serum samples included HCV antibody and RNA viral load, HCV antibody avidity assay (avidity index <30% with positive viral load is considered recently infected), and HCV RNA extraction and amplification to generate a 432 base-pair region of Core/E1 for sequencing and phylogenetic analysis. Historic local controls were included in the phylogenetic analysis. Of 1,028 MSM, 79.7% were HIV-negative and 20.3% HIV-positive. Twenty nine MSM (2.8%) were HCV antibody-positive. MSM who were HCV antibody-positive reported a median of 2 male sex partners in last 3 months, with 6.9% aged 18-24, 17.2% 25-29, 13.8% 30-39, and 62.1% 40 and over. 8.1% of HIV-positive MSM were HCV antibody-positive vs. 1.5% of HIV-negative men (p<0.0001). Of 29 HCV-antibody positive MSM, 12 (41%) were HCV RNA-positive (11 subtype 1a and 1 subtype 1b). Two of 12 HCV RNA-positive participants had low antibody avidity values, suggesting recent HCV infection. HCV antibody seropositivity was significantly associated with older age >40 years, adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 3.56 (95% CI 1.57, 8.08), HIV-positive serostatus, aOR 3.18 (95% CI 1.40, 7.22), any sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the last 3 months, aOR 2.81 (95% CI 1.11, 7.13), and injection drug use (IDU) ever, aOR 4.34 (95% CI 1.69, 11.17). Mapping of HCV infections differed slightly by home, social, and sexual neighborhoods. Based on phylogenetic analysis from 12 HCV RNA-positive samples, no evidence of a clustered HCV epidemic was found. Overall HCV seroprevalence was 2.8% among community-recruited MSM in NYC, with higher prevalence among HIV-positive MSM compared to HIV-negative MSM. Only two participants were found to have recent HCV infection, with no evidence of a clustered HCV epidemic based on phylogenetic analysis. Our results support testing of HCV infection among HIV-negative MSM if they report having a recent STI and IDU in the past rather than universal HCV testing in all HIV-negative MSM.