Hepatitis C virus RNA and antibody response in the clinical course of acute hepatitis C virus infection
Hepatitis C virus RNA, anti-hepatitis C virus immune response and biochemical markers of liver injury were investigated in 17 patients with acute non-A, non-B hepatitis. At the first observation, 1 to 3 wk from the clinical onset, all patients had hepatitis C virus RNA in their serum, and most (15 of 17) were positive for second-generation anti-hepatitis C virus enzyme immunoassay. Follow-up serum samples were available for 10 patients. The rate of recombinant immunoblot assay-confirmed anti-hepatitis C virus enzyme immunoassay reactivities increased from 67% in the first 3 wk to 86% after 21 wk. Elevated ALT levels were associated with hepatitis C virus RNA positivity in most of cases, but the viral nucleic acid was also detected in sera with normal or slightly increased enzyme values. None of the single antibodies tested were related to hepatitis C virus RNA positivity or to the clinical phase of the infection. Therefore hepatitis C virus RNA determination might provide important additional information as compared with anti-hepatitis C virus markers, allowing earlier diagnosis, discrimination of active infection and, possibly, prognostic evaluation.
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