Gastroenterohepatology Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, Shiraz, IR Iran.
End-stage renal disease patients on chronic hemodialysis are among high risk groups for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection for whom routine HCV screening is recommended. Anti-HCV antibody (ab) testing may not be reliable to detect all infected cases because of the blunted ab response due to depressed immune state in these patients. Using a more reliable, cost-effective and non-complex HCV screening test may be necessary in this group of patients for case finding and management, and also for prevention of infection spread.
The aim of this study was to find the prevalence of HCV infection in HCV ab negative hemodialysis patients by Real time PCR and total HCV core antigen (ag) test and comparing the results of the two tests.
PATIENTS AND METHODS:
From a single hemodialysis center, 181 anti- HCV ab negative patients were screened by total HCV core ag using an ELISA kit. Real time PCR was used for determination of the virus and viral load quantity.
Among the 181 anti-HCV ab negative patients, 13 (7.2%) were positive for HCV core ag and 11 (6%) had detectable HCV RNA with a range of 40-336543 IU/ml by PCR. The two tests had a high measurement agreement (Kappa=0.82, P<0.001). Of the 13 patients with positive HCV core ag test results, 3 were negative for HCV RNA. Considering real time PCR for HCV RNA as the gold standard for HCV infection determination in this patient population, HCV core ag assay yielded a sensitivity of 90.9%, specificity of 98.2%, positive predictive value of 76.9% and negative predictive value of 99.4%.
The rate of HCV infection among HCV ab negative hemodialysis patients was high. HCV core ag testing could be used as a sensitive method for HCV infection screening in this group of patients.