Clinical and therapeutic decisions for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection depend on factors that include documentation of past infection as well as identification of those who might benefit from antiviral chemotherapy with systemic interferon. To evaluate the ability of a diagnostic laboratory to accurately identify such patients, we compared results obtained with serum transaminase assays, two HCV antibody assays (enzyme immunoassay [EIA] and immunoblot), and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assay for HCV RNA using a group of consecutively submitted samples within our university-based diagnostic virology laboratory and sera from a population of random blood donors. One hundred percent of specimens with R values of greater than 3.0 in the HCV EIA were positive in the confirmatory immunoblot. However, 25% of specimens with EIA R values of between 1.0 and 3.0 were not confirmed by either recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA) or RNA PCR assay (false-positive specimens). A significant correlation (P < 0.01) between increasing reactivity in the RIBA and positivity in the RNA PCR assay was found. The incidence of HCV viremia, as determined by the RNA PCR assay, was 73% for confirmed seropositive specimens, 33% for seropositive specimens with indeterminate RIBA results, 12% for seronegative specimens obtained from infected patients, and 2.0% for seronegative specimens obtained from uninfected blood donors. In contrast, serum transaminase testing did not correlate with the RNA PCR assay for HCV. Use of the EIA and immunoblot assay followed by RNA PCR testing will identify most patients who are viremic with HCV.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Microbiology (medical)