Background/aims: A simple and reproducible hepatic immunohistochemical staining (IHS) for hepatitis C virus (HCV) is not available. We aimed to validate hepatic IHS with monoclonal antibody (Mab) IG222, directed against the HCV-envelope 2 (E2) protein.
Methods: A three-step indirect immunoperoxidase method was used for frozen sections and a two-step indirect EnVision technique was used for paraffin-embedded sections.
Results: Naturally or in vitro HCV infected primary human hepatocytes were immunoreactive to HCV-E2. In the patient study (n=253), IHS had a sensitivity of 96% and a specificity of 91%. Six patients who showed positivity in the liver with Mab IG222, but remained anti-HCV and HCV-RNA negative, had hepatitis C-like changes in their liver biopsy. In one patient HCV-RNA could be detected in the liver biopsy. We confirmed early graft reinfection in patients transplanted for HCV-related disease (34 patients with serial biopsies). Treatment for acute cellular rejection with steroids was associated with an increase in staining intensity. In nine patients with clearance of HCV-RNA during antiviral therapy, seven achieved negativation of immunoreactivity and two a marked reduction.
Conclusions: The IHS with Mab IG222 is an accurate tool for diagnosis and clinical management of chronic hepatitis C.