Role of nucleic acid testing in cadaver organ donor screening: detection of hepatitis C virus RNA in seropositive and seronegative donors


Lorraine Comanor, 1801 Waverley St., Palo Alto, CA 94301 USA. E-mail:


Summary.  Hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmission by both seropositive and seronegative cadaver organ donors has been documented, yet nucleic acid testing is not routinely used to identify active infection in these donors prior to transplantation. Between November 2001 and February 2004, we screened 1445 cadaver organ donors for anti-HCV antibodies with either HCV EIA-2.0 (Abbott Diagnostics, Chicago, IL, USA) and/or Ortho® HCV Version 3.0 ELISA (Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Raritan, NJ, USA) and confirmed seropositive samples with Chiron RIBA®3.0 SIA (Chiron Corporation, Emeryville, CA, USA). Samples with sufficient volume (n = 726) were tested by the VERSANT® HCV [transcription-mediated amplification (TMA)] Qualitative assay (Bayer Healthcare LLC, Tarrytown, NY, USA) which can be performed in approximately 5 h. Those with detectable HCV RNA and sufficient volume were quantified by the VERSANT® HCV 3.0 (bDNA) Assay (Bayer Healthcare LLC) and/or the HCV RNA TMA Quantitative Assay (n = 23) and genotyped (n = 57). Seventy-seven of 1445 (5.3%) donors were seropositive, reactive by either one or both anti-HCV assays. Fifty-two of 63 (82.5%) of the seropositive samples had detectable HCV RNA and were genotyped. Seventeen of these samples had quantifications ranging from 128,123 to >7,692,307 IU/mL. Six of 663 (0.9%) seronegative samples had detectable HCV RNA. Their quantifications ranged from <9.3 to 1,464,799 IU/mL, and five of these six were successfully genotyped. As HCV RNA was demonstrated in samples from both our seropositive and seronegative cadaver organ donors, we are now incorporating nucleic acid testing into our donor screening/diagnostic algorithm.