Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the major etiologic agent associated with non-A, non-B hepatitis. This study was designed to assess virologic and serologic markers in hemophiliacs exposed to non-heat-treated and/or virus-inactivated plasma derivatives. Serial bleeds from 48 hemophilic patients were analyzed for the presence of HCV viral RNA sequences as detected by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibodies to structural (core) and nonstructural (C-100 and 33C) proteins by specific dot immunoblot assay. All patients exposed to non-heat-treated products, and four of six patients exposed only to virus inactivated products, had evidence of HCV infection. However, over the 5-yr study period, six exposed patients (13%) consistently lacked detectable anti-C-100 and seven (15%) lost this antibody. HCV viremia (PCR positive) was found in 91% of exposed patients, and was significantly more frequent in HIV seropositive hemophiliacs (P less than 0.05). Six patients had high antibody level to HCV and elevated ALT, but appeared to clear viremia. Four hemophiliacs were HCV seropositive but lacked detectable viremia. These data indicate that hemophiliacs remain persistently infected by HCV and that antibody to the core antigen of HCV is a reliable marker of this transfusion transmissible agent.
J P Allain, S H Dailey, Y Laurian, D S Vallari, A Rafowicz, S M Desai, S G Devare
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