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J Virol. 1998 Apr;72(4):2589-99.

Analysis of hepatitis C virus-inoculated chimpanzees reveals unexpected clinical profiles.

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  • 1Department of Virology and Immunology, Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, San Antonio, Texas 78227, USA.


The clinical course of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in a chimpanzee cohort was examined to better characterize the outcome of this valuable animal model. Results of a cross-sectional study revealed that a low percentage (39%) of HCV-inoculated chimpanzees were viremic based on reverse transcription (RT-PCR) analysis. A correlation was observed between viremia and the presence of anti-HCV antibodies. The pattern of antibodies was dissimilar among viremic chimpanzees and chimpanzees that cleared the virus. Viremic chimpanzees had a higher prevalence of antibody reactivity to NS3, NS4, and NS5. Since an unexpectedly low percentage of chimpanzees were persistently infected with HCV, a longitudinal analysis of the virological profile of a small panel of HCV-infected chimpanzees was performed to determine the kinetics of viral clearance and loss of antibody. This study also revealed that a low percentage (33%) of HCV-inoculated chimpanzees were persistently viremic. Analysis of serial bleeds from six HCV-infected animals revealed four different clinical profiles. Viral clearance with either gradual or rapid loss of anti-HCV antibody was observed in four animals within 5 months postinoculation. A chronic-carrier profile characterized by persistent HCV RNA and anti-HCV antibody was observed in two animals. One of these chimpanzees was RT-PCR positive, antibody negative for 5 years and thus represented a silent carrier. If extrapolated to the human population, these data would imply that a significant percentage of unrecognized HCV infections may occur and that silent carriers may represent potentially infectious blood donors.

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