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Clin Chem. 2011 Jul;57(7):1050-6. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2010.158691. Epub 2011 May 12.

Improved reflexive testing algorithm for hepatitis C infection using signal-to-cutoff ratios of a hepatitis C virus antibody assay.

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  • 1Southern California Research Center for Alcoholic Liver and Pancreatic Diseases and Cirrhosis, Department of Pathology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



Chemiluminescence immunoassay (CIA) is used to detect hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody status on the basis of signal-to-cutoff (S/Co) ratios. Positive results of antibody to HCV (anti-HCV) are followed by either recombinant immunoblot assay (RIBA) to confirm anti-HCV positivity or reverse transcription (RT)-PCR to detect viremia. We hypothesized that by analyzing S/Co ratios, we could determine a strategy to reduce unnecessary supplementary testing in our population.


CIA was performed to screen for anti-HCV, and positive results were followed up with RT-PCR testing. Negative RT-PCR results were followed up with RIBA, whereas positive RT-PCR results were assumed to be RIBA positive. ROC curves were analyzed to determine the optimal S/Co ratios to predict HCV infection.


We determined the S/Co ratios on 34 243 veteran patient samples. We found that with the CIA method 9.0% of patients had positive test results for anti-HCV. An S/Co ratio <3.0 ruled out active HCV infection and exposure with 100% negative predictive value. When the S/Co ratio was ≥20.0, positive predictive values were 98.5% compared with RIBA results, and 81.0% compared with RT-PCR results.


RIBA is not necessary to confirm negative or positive CIA anti-HCV if the S/Co ratio is <3.0 or ≥20.0, respectively. To confirm HCV exposure, samples with an S/Co ratio between 3.0 and 19.9 should be followed up with RIBA unless PCR testing has been performed and the result is positive. Samples with an S/Co ratio ≥20.0 or positive RIBA results should be further tested by RT-PCR to determine HCV viremia status.

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