Occult HCV or delayed viral clearance from lymphocytes of Chronic HCV genotype 3 patients after interferon therapy

Institute of Biomedical and Genetic Engineering, Islamabad, Pakistan. .
Genetic Vaccines and Therapy (Impact Factor: 2.1). 09/2011; 9(1):14. DOI: 10.1186/1479-0556-9-14
Source: PubMed


A recently discovered occult HCV entity reported by various investigators seems to be highly controversial. Especially, the clinical significance of these findings remains uncertain. For optimal outcome of antiviral therapy, investigation of occult HCV needs a broad-based probe in order to investigate the results of viral therapy and its host/viral interaction. The current study was aimed at determining the prevalence of occult HCV in peripheral blood lymphocytes of predominantly genotype 3 HCV-infected patients after completion of antiviral therapy and to investigate long term outcomes in the presence or absence of PBMC positivity.
A total of 151 chronic, antiHCV and serum RNA-positive patients were enrolled in the study. Patients with a complete virological response at the end of treatment were screened for the presence of viral RNA in their PBMCs and were followed for up to one year for the presence of serum and PBMC viral genomic RNA.
Out of 151 patients, 104 (70%) responded to the prescribed interferon treatment and showed viral-clearance from serum. These were screened for the presence of genomic RNA in their PBMCs. Sixteen samples were PBMC-positive for viral RNA at the end of treatment (EOT). All these patients had also cleared the virus from peripheral blood cells after the 6-12 month follow-up study.
True occult hepatitis C virus does not exist in our cohort. Residual viremia at the EOT stage merely reflects a difference in viral kinetics in various compartments that remains a target of immune response even after the end of antiviral therapy and is eventually cleared out at the sustained viral response (SVR).

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