Author(s): Carreo V, Pardo M, LpezAlcorocho JM, RodrguezIigo E, Bartolom J,
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Abstract BACKGROUND: It is unknown whether hepatitis C virus (HCV) is present in the liver of anti-HCV antibody-positive patients with persistently normal alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels and undetectable serum HCV RNA levels. METHODS: We determined the presence of genomic and antigenomic HCV RNA strands in liver biopsy specimens and peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) samples obtained from 12 anti-HCV antibody-positive patients who had normal ALT levels and who had been serum HCV RNA negative for at least 12 months, according to the results of quantitative, strand-specific, real-time reverse-transcription-polymerase chain reaction and, also, in situ hybridization of liver cells. Intrahepatic HCV RNA was cloned and sequenced. RESULTS: All patients remained anti-HCV antibody positive and serum HCV RNA negative, and all had normal ALT values during follow-up (mean duration +/- SD, 29.2 +/- 19.8 months). Genomic HCV RNA was detected in liver biopsy specimens obtained from 10 (83\%) of 12 patients, and the antigenomic strand was detected in 10 (100\%) of 10 liver biopsy specimens in which genomic HCV RNA was detected. Results were confirmed by in situ hybridization. Intrahepatic HCV was of genotype 1b, and HCV sequencing demonstrated no cross-contamination among samples. Genomic HCV RNA was found in 6 (50\%) of 12 PBMC samples, and antigenomic HCV RNA was also detected in 5 (83\%) of these 6 PBMC samples. CONCLUSION: HCV may persist and replicate in the liver and PBMCs of healthy, anti-HCV antibody-positive, serum HCV RNA-negative patients who have persistently normal ALT levels. These patients should be followed up, because they have an ongoing viral infection.
This article was published in J Infect Dis
and referenced in Journal of Molecular Biomarkers & Diagnosis