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J Clin Microbiol. 2008 Dec;46(12):3880-91. doi: 10.1128/JCM.00755-08. Epub 2008 Sep 17.

Differences between two real-time PCR-based hepatitis C virus (HCV) assays (RealTime HCV and Cobas AmpliPrep/Cobas TaqMan) and one signal amplification assay (Versant HCV RNA 3.0) for RNA detection and quantification.

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Zentrum der Inneren Medizin, Medizinische Klinik 1, Klinikum der JW Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA detection and quantification are the key diagnostic tools for the management of hepatitis C. Commercially available HCV RNA assays are calibrated to the HCV genotype 1 (gt1)-based WHO standard. Significant differences between assays have been reported. However, it is unknown which assay matches the WHO standard best, and little is known about the sensitivity and linear quantification of the assays for non-gt1 specimens. Two real-time reverse transcriptase PCR-based assays (RealTime HCV and Cobas Ampliprep/Cobas TaqMan HCV [CAP/CTM]) and one signal amplification-based assay (the Versant HCV RNA, version 3.0, branched DNA [bDNA] assay) were compared for their abilities to quantify HCV RNA in clinical specimens (n = 65) harboring HCV isolates of gt1 to g5. The mean differences in the amounts detected by RealTime HCV in comparison to those detected by the bDNA assay and CAP/CTM were -0.02 and 0.72 log(10) IU/ml HCV RNA, respectively, for gt1; -0.22 and 0.03 log(10) IU/ml HCV RNA, respectively, for gt2; -0.27 and -0.22 log(10) IU/ml HCV RNA, respectively, for gt3; -0.19 and -1.27 log(10) IU/ml HCV RNA, respectively, for gt4; and -0.03 and 0.09 log(10) IU/ml HCV RNA, respectively, for gt5. The lower limits of detection for RealTime HCV and CAP/CTM were 16.8 and 10.3 IU/ml, respectively, for the WHO standard and in the range of 4.7 to 9.0 and 3.4 to 44.4 IU/ml, respectively, for clinical specimens harboring gt1 to gt6. Direct comparison of the two assays with samples of the WHO standard (code 96/798) with high titers yielded slightly smaller amounts by RealTime HCV (-0.2 log(10) at 1,500 IU/ml and -0.3 log(10) at 25,000 IU/ml) and larger amounts by CAP/CTM (0.3 log(10) at 1,500 IU/ml and 0.2 log(10) at 25,000 IU/ml). Finally, all three tests were linear between 4.0 x 10(3) and 1.0 x 10(6) IU/ml (correlation coefficient, >or=0.99). In conclusion, the real-time PCR based assays sensitively detected all genotypes and showed comparable linearities for the quantification of HCV RNA, with the exception of gt1 and gt4. The previously reported differences in the absolute quantification of samples harboring gt1 were confirmed and may be explained by different calibrations to the WHO standard.

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