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Keywords:

  • autoimmune hepatitis;
  • PCR;
  • IFN treatment

Abstract

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication was assessed before and during alpha-interferon (IFN) treatment in 22 anti-HCV positive patients with posttransfusion or sporadic chronic hepatitis (CH). Eleven patients were “responders” and 11 patients “non-responders” to IFN. Thirteen anti-HCV negative healthy subjects and five anti-HCV negative patients with autoimmune CH served as controls.

Serum HCV-RNA was detected by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in all untreated anti-HCV positive patients but in none of the anti-HCV negative subjects. PCR primers from the 5′-non-coding (NC) region were more sensitive than primers from a non-structural (NS5) region in detecting HCV-RNA (21/22, 95% vs. 7/22, 32%, respectively). Positive strand HCV-RNA titre and positivity rate for the negative strand were similar in responders and non-responders before IFN treatment, as well as anti-cl00-3 titre by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and anti-5-1-1, anti-c33c, anti-c22 positivity rate by immunoblot assay (RIBA). HCV-RNA positivity by both NC and NS primers was more frequent before IFN among responders. During IFN treatment, serum HCV-RNA was detectable, mostly at low titres, in 1 (NC positive) of the 11 responders and in 9 (4 NS positive and 5 NC positive) of the 11 non-responders. Among the four non-responders who were NS positive during IFN, three were NC positive before IFN.

Serum HCV-RNA was always found in our post-transfusion or sporadic anti-HCV positive patients with CH. Viraemia generally decreased during IFN treatment, but no available HCV markers clearly distinguished responders from non-responders before IFN treatment. Different NC and NS primers behaviour between responders and non-responders before and during treatment with IFN suggests genomic heterogeneity and may explain non-responsiveness to IFN. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.