Clearance of hepatitis C virus RNA from the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of blood donors who spontaneously or therapeutically control their plasma viremia


  • Potential conflict of interest: Dr. Busch is a consultant for, advises, and is on the speaker's bureau of Gen-Probe, Chiron/Novartis, and Ortho.


We determined whether hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA could be detected associated with peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of seropositive blood donors who had spontaneously or therapeutically cleared their plasma viremia. Blood donor plasma viremia status was first determined with a highly sensitive transcription-mediated amplification (TMA) test performed in duplicate assays. PBMC from 69 aviremic and 56 viremic blood donors were then analyzed for the presence of HCV RNA with TMA adapted to detect viral RNA in PBMC and with a reverse transcription–nested polymerase chain reaction assay. PBMC-associated HCV RNA was detected in none of the 69 aviremic donors, including all 6 subjects with a sustained viral response following antiviral therapy. PBMC-associated HCV RNA was detected in 43 of the 56 viremic donors. The 13 viremic donors with no detectable PBMC-associated HCV RNA all had very low viral loads (6 positive only in 1 of 2 duplicate plasma TMA assays, 6 with viral loads below 100 HCV RNA copies/mL, and 1 with a viremia of 2700 HCV RNA copies/mL). The absence of detectable PBMC HCV RNA detection in all 69 aviremic donors reported here contrasts with prior studies, possibly as a result of the higher sensitivity of the TMA assay used to test for plasma viremia. Conclusion: Our results indicate that PBMC are unlikely to serve as a long-lived reservoir of HCV in aviremic subjects. (HEPATOLOGY 2008.)