Host hepatitis C virus (HCV)-specific T cell responses and the ability of the virus to escape this response are important correlates of infection outcome. Understanding this host-viral interplay has been difficult given the often asymptomatic nature of acute HCV infection. We studied a recent transmission case to determine whether adapted viral strains can be transmitted and influence the recipient's anti-HCV T cell response. The diversity of viral populations was examined using next-generation sequencing, and HCV-specific T cell interferon (IFN)-gamma responses were assessed using a peptide panel representing the autologous viruses. HCV-specific T cell responses in the source were directed against peptides that did not match the dominant autologous virus but rather low-frequency variants, implying existing viral adaptation in the source strain. Most HCV T cell epitopes that elicited an IFN-gamma response in the source did not in the recipient, despite the pair sharing human leukocyte antigen alleles that govern antigen presentation and similar autologous viruses. Intrahost HCV variation in the recipient fell within predicted T cell epitopes, suggesting alternative targets of the immune response. These data suggest that transmission of adapted viral species can direct the host's HCV-specific immune response profile during acute infection.