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Am J Gastroenterol. 1994 Sep;89(9):1458-61.

Levels of hepatitis C virus RNA and liver histology in chronic type C hepatitis.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology-Hepatology, Beaumont Research Institute, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan.



The clinical and pathologic significance of quantitative serum hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA levels in patients with chronic type C hepatitis is unknown. The aim of this study was to determine whether serum levels of HCV RNA were associated with mode of viral transmission or with histological severity of liver disease.


A branched DNA signal amplification assay for HCV RNA was done on the sera of 127 patients with well-defined risk factors for viral hepatitis. Seventy persons acquired HCV infection by blood transfusion and 57 via tattoo application or former intravenous drug use. Group I included 42 patients with chronic persistent hepatitis, group II consisted of 39 patients with chronic active hepatitis, and group III included 40 individuals whose liver biopsies showed both chronic active hepatitis and cirrhosis, as well as six patients with clinically decompensated cirrhosis.


The median HCV RNA level [equivalents/ml (eq/ml) x 10(5)] for patients who acquired infection from transfusion [73.5 x 10(5) (eq/ml)] was not significantly different from that of patients who reported prior intravenous drug use [50 x 10(5) eq/ml] (p = 0.283). The median HCV RNA level for groups I, II, and III was 29.5, 76, and 71, respectively. Group I differed significantly from groups II and III combined (median = 73) (p = 0.02). No difference was noted between group II and group III (p = 0.947). Age did not correlate with level of viremia (r2 = 0.01). No relationship was found between serum alanine aminotransferase and the level of viremia (p = 0.52). Multivariate analysis showed that only the histological severity of the disease proved to be predictive of HCV RNA level (p = 0.04).


The lowest levels of hepatitis C viremia are, in general, associated with minimal liver disease. Overall, histological severity of chronic hepatitis C infection best predicts HCV RNA levels.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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