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Sera from 103 patients were tested for hepatitis C virus RNA by nested polymerase chain reaction assay. Using primers from the highly conserved 5'-untranslated region, we detected hepatitis C virus RNA in 67 (88.2%) of 76 patients positive for antibody to hepatitis C virus by both second-generation and neutralization enzyme immunoassays. Hepatitis C virus RNA was detected in 93% of patients who had been infected for 10 yr or less and in 89% of those who had been infected for longer than 10 yr. Hepatitis C virus RNA was detected in all patients with chronic hepatitis, active cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma and in 50% of those with nonspecific reactive hepatitis or inactive cirrhosis. Hepatitis C virus RNA was not detected in sera from 22 patients negative for antibody to hepatitis C virus or in 5 patients positive for antibody to hepatitis C virus by second-generation but not by neutralization enzyme immunoassay. Using primers from the less conserved nonstructural region 4, we detected hepatitis C virus RNA at a lower frequency, in 66% of patients who were positive for antibody to hepatitis C virus by both second-generation and neutralization enzyme immunoassays. The detection rate was higher in patients with frequent parenteral exposure. Our study showed that hepatitis C viremia can be detected in most patients with hepatitis C virus infection, including those with long-standing infection or advanced liver disease.
View details for Web of Science ID A1992HX53200005
View details for PubMedID 1317337