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J Hepatol. 1999 Sep;31(3):394-9.

Spontaneous negativation of serum hepatitis C virus RNA is a rare event in type C chronic liver diseases: analysis of HCV RNA in 320 patients who were followed for more than 3 years.

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First Department of Medicine, Chiba University School of Medicine, Japan.



The natural course of hepatitis C virus (HCV) replication in type C liver diseases has not yet been elucidated. The aim of the study was to investigate the spontaneous outcome of the viremia by examining the changes in HCV RNA in patients with chronic type C liver diseases.


Among patients who visited our liver clinic between June 1981 and December 1993, 320 patients with chronic type C liver diseases were followed for at least 3 years and had no history of interferon treatment. HCV RNA was examined by a highly specific reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction method in paired serum samples obtained from these patients at the beginning and end of follow-up.


Among the 320 cases, HCV RNA was seropositive in 310 (97%) cases at the beginning of follow-up. Of these 310, HCV RNA remained seropositive in 304 (98%) and became seronegative in six (2%) cases by the end of follow-up. All of these six patients had liver cancer. HCV RNA became seronegative after the patients entered the state of liver failure because of the development of tumors or portal thrombosis. The remaining 10 cases who were seronegative for HCV RNA at the beginning were seropositive at the end of follow-up. Among the 320 cases, serum alanine aminotransferase normalized and remained normal for more than 12 months until the end of follow-up in 11 cases (0.6%/year/case), but none became negative for HCV RNA.


Thus, during the natural course of chronic HCV infection, spontaneous negativation of serum HCV RNA seems extremely rare, at least in patients with chronic active hepatitis or cirrhosis of the liver, and may occur primarily at the terminal stage when tumors cause liver failure.

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