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Indexed/Abstracted in: BIOSIS Previews, Current Contents/Clinical Medicine, EMBASE, PubMed/MEDLINE, Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch), Scopus
Impact Factor 1,6
Online ISSN 1827-1898
Perniola R., De Rinaldis C., Leo G.*
From the Paediatric Unit and * Laboratory Medicine Unit, Vito Fazzi Regional Hospital Lecce, Italy
Background. Many advances have been made in the sensitivity of assays for hepatitis C virus antibodies (HCV-Ab). Nevertheless, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is still the best method to establish if infection has become chronic. In this study we utilised third-generation assays for HCV-Ab in a four-year follow-up to determine the trend in antibody levels in currently and past infected patients.
Methods. Seventy-two multitransfused subjects were enrolled. All the patients were reactive at the first test with third-generation screening and confirmatory assays (ELISA-3 and RIBA-3) for HCV-Ab. They were subsequently retested in a follow-up ranging from 41 to 47 months. Viraemia was investigated with a standardised PCR kit; negative samples were reevaluated with nested PCR. Differences in antibody trend were calculated with the Wilcoxon signed-rank test.
Results. No statistical variation in antibody titre was found in the 41 HCV-RNA positive patients, although some of these showed a decrease in anti-c100p level. In contrast, anti-c22p, anti-c33c and anti-c100p levels decreased significantly in the 19 past infected patients. Twelve patients were HCV-RNA negative or intermittently positive with commercial PCR test, and consistently or intermittently positive in nested PCR: in these patients, antibody trend varied.
Conclusions. Although resolving hepatitis is associated with a decrease in antibody titre, the trend should be observed for a long period to distinguish between chronic and past infection. However, the evaluation in a single patient can be unreliable. Since a doubtful response for HCV-RNA is in some cases obtained, further improvements in the diagnosis of chronic HCV infection are needed.