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Occult HCV Infection (OCI) Diagnosis in Cirrhotic and Non-cirrhotic Naïve Patients by Intra-PBMC Nested Viral RNA PCR.

  • Abd Alla, Mohamed Darwish Ahmed1
  • Elibiary, Saleh Ahmed1
  • Wu, George Y2
  • El-Awady, Mostafa Kamel3
  • 1 Tropical Medicine Department, Faculty of Medicine, Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt. , (Egypt)
  • 2 Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology-Hepatology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT, USA.
  • 3 Department of Microbial Biotechnology, National Research Center, Cairo, Egypt. , (Egypt)
Published Article
Journal of clinical and translational hepatology
Publication Date
Dec 28, 2017
DOI: 10.14218/JCTH.2017.00034
PMID: 29226098


Background and Aims: Occult HCV infections (OCIs) include IgG antibody seronegative cryptogenic (COCIs), as well as seropositive secondary naïve (SNOCIs) and experienced (SEOCIs) cases. We used peripheral-blood-mononuclear-cell (PBMC)-PCR to evaluate COCIs and SNOCIs prevalence, serum HCV spontaneous disappearance (SCSD) in naïve cirrhotics and non-cirrhotics, intra-PBMC HCV-RNA strands in relation to cirrhosis density in naïve non-viremia cases, and HCV-RNA seroconversion after 1 year of solitary naïve intra-PBMC infection. Methods: The anti-HCV IgG antibody-positive naïve-patients (n = 785) were classified into viremic (n = 673) and non-viremic [n = 112, including non-cirrhotics (n = 55) and cirrhotics (n = 57)], and 62 controls without evidence of HCV-infection. Controls and post-HCV non-viremia cases (n = 62+112 = 174) were submitted to hepatic Fibroscan-Elastography evaluation. All subjects (n = 847) were screened for intra-PBMC HCV-RNA sense and antisense strands by nested-PCR. Results: Naïve-OCI cases (4.84%) that were diagnosed by PBMC-PCR significantly raised the total numbers of HCV-infection to 714 (p = 0.01). The percent positivity of SNOCIs (34.82%) was significantly higher than for asymptomatic-COCIs (3.125%, p = 0.0001). Comparing PBMC-PCR with single-step-reverse-transcription (SRT)-PCR for identification of SCSD in naïve IgG antibody-positive non-viremia patients (n = 112) revealed a decline in SCSD prevalence by PBMC-PCR (from 14.27% to 9.3%), regardless of presence of hepatic cirrhosis (p = 0.03). SCSD was found to be higher by PBMC-PCR in non-cirrhotics compared to cirrhotics (p = 0.0001), with an insignificant difference when using SRT-PCR (p = 0.45). Intra-PBMC HCV-RNA infection was significantly more frequent in cirrhotics compared to both non-cirrhotics and controls (p < 0.0005). An increased hepatic fibrosis density was recognized in intra-PBMC HCV-RNA infection with sense (p = 0.0001) or antisense strand (p = 0.003). HCV-RNA seroconversion was associated with intra-PBMC infection when both sense and antisense strands were detected (p = 0.047). Conclusions: Intracellular HCV-RNA evaluation is crucial for diagnosing OCIs and addressing relapse probability.

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