Genotypes are variations of the virus, and can be looked on in a similar way as accents are in language. In the same way as cockney or geordie accents relate to BBC English, so the different genotypes of the virus relate together.
There are at present six recognised genotypes of Hepatitis C, most of which have been divided into sub types (a,b,c, etc). Distribution of these six types around the world varies. Types 1,2 and 3 are most common in Europe, Western countries and the Far East. Genotype 4 is most common in the Middle East and Central Africa, whereas genotype 5 and 6 are most common in South Africa and S.E. Asia.
Genotypes have a bearing on how the virus is treated. Genotypes 2 and 3 are generally thought to be easier to cure than the others. In the UK the treatment is usually reduced to 24 weeks as opposed to 48 weeks, and the dosage of Ribavirin is also reduced.
Genotype 1 is the most common, and one of the most difficult to cure.