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J Med Virol. 2002 Nov;68(3):335-42.

Hepatitis C virus particles of different density in the blood of chronically infected immunocompetent and immunodeficient patients: Implications for virus clearance by antibody.

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Centre for Liver Research, Medical School, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.


The purpose of this study was to analyse the influence of the humoral immune response on the generation and clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA containing particles in the blood of chronically infected patients. Blood samples were fractionated by sequential flotation ultracentrifugation and HCV RNA was recovered in three fractions: low density of < 1.063 g/ml, intermediate density of 1.063-1.21 g/ml, and high density of > 1.21 g/ml. Serum low-density lipoproteins co-fractionated with the low-density particles, and high-density lipoproteins co-fractionated with the intermediate-density particles. Immunoglobulins were found exclusively in the high-density fractions. In patients with congenital immunodeficiencies, with no or low serum antibodies to the virus, mean HCV RNA titres were equal in each fraction, at approximately 10(5) IU/ml. In antibody-positive, immunocompetent patients, however, virus titres in the low-density fraction and those in the high-density fraction were reduced or absent in most patients, suggesting that virus particles in these fractions are subject to antibody-mediated clearance. Particles of intermediate density were approximately equal in titre in both patient groups, suggesting that these particles are neither generated by, nor cleared, as a result of the humoral immune response. Immunoprecipitation experiments indicated that particles of intermediate density were not complexed with either high-density lipoprotein or immunoglobulins. Elucidation of the mechanisms by which these particles are generated and maintained in the blood may provide valuable insight into the mechanism of virus persistence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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