Background: To further improve the safety of the blood supply, various national blood transfusion organizations presently use or are in the process of implementing routine HCV NAT in minipools. According to the Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products (CPMP) of the European Union, the HCV NAT detection limit of the assay should be 100 IU per mL (270 geq/mL) for testing initial plasma pools. Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) regulations stipulate that 5000 IU per mL (13,500 geq/mL) must be detected to calculate the amount contributed by individual donations composing the minipool. The sensitivity for HCV RNA extraction achieved by three commercially available laboratory kits was compared.
Study design and methods: Nucleic acids from 1-in-3 serial dilutions of an HCV RNA run control (Pelispy, CLB) were extracted with three kits (Cobas Amplicor, Roche Diagnostic Systems; BioRobot 9604, Qiagen; and NucliSens Extractor, Organon Teknika). HCV PCR of all extracts was performed using a second-generation Cobas Amplicor HCV test and the Cobas Amplicor analyzer.
Results: The manual Cobas Amplicor, the BioRobot 9604, and the NucliSens Extractor setups allow a 95-percent HCV RNA detection limit of 129, 82, and 12 geq per mL, respectively. The maximal pool size for the manual Cobas Amplicor, the BioRobot 9604, and the NucliSens Extractor kits that would still meet the PEI criteria for HCV NAT in minipools was calculated at 104, 164, and 1125 donations, respectively.
Conclusion: All three HCV NAT kits evaluated meet the criteria set by CPMP and PEI. The highest sensitivity for HCV NAT screening can be achieved with the high-volume NucliSens Extractor method in combination with the Cobas Amplicor HCV v2.0 test on the Cobas Amplicor analyzer.