[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: HCV exposure among blood donors is serologically determined by detection of antibodies to HCV (anti-HCV); however, the recent development of an assay for the detection of HCV core antigen identifies infection before anti-HCV development. Simultaneous detection of HCV core antigen and anti-HCV would shorten the window period before seroconversion over conventional HCV antibody screening assays.
A prototype chemiluminescent immunoassay was developed for simultaneous detection of HCV core antigen and anti-HCV in human sera and plasma. The assay was performed on a single-channel instrument representing an automated serologic analyzer (PRISM, Abbott Laboratories) system. Sensitivity and specificity were evaluated by testing 23 HCV seroconversion panels and plasma or sera from volunteer blood donors.
The prototype HCV core antigen and antibody combination assay detected 80 of 89 (89.9% ) HCV RNA-positive and antibody-negative specimens from 23 panels, thereby reducing the seroconversion window period by an average of 34.3 days compared to PRISM HCV antibody detection. All PRISM HCV antibody-positive specimens were detected by the combination assay for a relative sensitivity of 100 percent. The repeatedly reactive rate was 0.20 percent based on testing of 3017 screened anti-HCV-negative sera and plasma.
The prototype combination assay was shown to detect HCV core antigen and anti-HCV simultaneously and significantly closed the time gap between the initial detection of HCV RNA and the first appearance of detectable antibodies to HCV.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Currently, the detection of HCV infection in blood donors relies on the ability of immunoassays to detect circulating HCV antibodies. However, a significant delay exists between the time of infection and the development of antibodies. This delay (window period) can last up to 70 days. The introduction of NAT for the detection of HCV RNA has reduced this window period dramatically. However, NAT is labor intensive, prone to contamination, and expensive as compared with standard serologic tests.
An automated, microparticle-based chemiluminescent assay for the detection of HCV core antigen in human serum and plasma was developed. The specificity and sensitivity of this prototype assay were evaluated by testing a population of normal blood donors and commercially available seroconversion panels.
The HCV core antigen assay exhibited a 99.9-percent specificity by detecting a single repeatably reactive sample out of 1004 normal donors tested. Assay sensitivity was determined by comparing the HCV core antigen detection rate with the antibody seroconversion profile and the rate of HCV RNA detection. Among 15 seroconversion panels examined, core antigen was detected in 69 of 70 antibody-negative and/or RNA-positive samples for a sensitivity relative to NAT of 98.6 percent.
These data indicate that the automated, microparticle-based chemiluminescent HCV core antigen assay can reduce the window period for detection of potentially infected blood donors by 32.7 days, and it represents a viable alternative to HCV RNA testing.